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MotoGP: Cal Crutchlow: Trading places

“Everybody believes you can just jump on a Honda and be winning. It doesn't happen like that at all” - Cal Crutchlow.
Next weekend will see Cal Crutchlow take part in his first and last home British MotoGP for the Factory Ducati team.

The top satellite competitor of 2013 at Tech 3 Yamaha, Crutchlow is the latest in a long line of star riders to be burned by the Desmosedici's cornering issues.

The most high profile is of course Valentino Rossi, the nine time world champion stating he began to realise he wasn't going to win at Ducati after ten races. It appears Crutchlow reached a similar conclusion within nine rounds. But while Rossi served a two-year contract, Crutchlow had the option to leave at the end of his first season.

The exact details remain hazy, and complicated by initial comments that Crutchlow would continue, but a trade was ultimately made that will see the 28-year-old depart for LCR Honda and be replaced by Pramac's Andrea Iannone.

“It just hasn't worked out as we planned,” said Crutchlow. “We came to a mutual agreement to terminate the contract because they [Ducati] had two fantastic riders that they are happy with to be in the factory team next year. And I had a good offer on the table [from LCR]. It was as simple as that.”

Crutchlow's 14th in the championship relative to team-mate Andrea Dovizioso's fifth doesn't paint the whole picture due to Crutchlow's hand injury in Texas, absence from Argentina and numerous technical problems.

But the fact remains Crutchlow's best finish is sixth, while Dovizioso has twice stood on the podium. So why didn't it work out?

One theory is that Crutchlow, having spent three years honing his riding style for the Jorge Lorenzo-inspired Yamaha, was unwilling to change for the Ducati. Crutchlow's response is that he has tried to change, and it made things worse.

“At the start of the year I was adamant I wasn't going to change my style, but I had to a little bit,” he revealed. “It still isn't working though, because with my style that I was using before I was having better results [on the Ducati] than now, when I'm trying to change my style.

“The Ducati is so good in the braking zone, which is not my strongest point. I believed I had to change in that way, but how I like to brake doesn't really suit the bike. I started to change a little bit, but in all honesty it is making no difference to the result.”

When Crutchlow and Dovizioso were team-mates at Tech 3 in 2012 they were often evenly matched - Dovizioso had the edge in races, Crutchlow in qualifying. Crutchlow believes the exaggerated difference this year is down to Dovizioso's biggest strength overlapping with that of the bike, when braking.

“We don't really lose out in many other areas, but the strong point of the bike is also Dovi's strong point,” said Crutchlow. “You look at the data to see where you are losing time, but you already know.

“Dovi is a fantastic rider. He's also a really clever rider and he's been really tough for me to beat this year because I've jumped on the Ducati and not got used to it. If you look at his results last year though they were roughly the same as mine now - the distance from the winner. Now in his second year he is really strong and it looks like a lot of the Ducati riders have been like that.

“On our day, with both of us pushing 100 percent, it would be quite close between us. I am pushing 100 percent, but his 100 percent is better than mine at the moment,” Crutchlow admitted.

Given that assessment, and the stark contrast in his form at Yamaha and Ducati, is it now clearer what kind of characteristics Crutchlow needs from a MotoGP bike?

“Yeah sure, I know that I'm not the strongest guy in the braking zone. So I need a bike that can corner at a higher speed,” he replied.

“Dovi doesn't care. He only wants the bike to stop. As long as the bike stops in the way he wants it to and he can enter the corner in a half-decent way, he doesn't care for the rear grip coming out of the corner. Because he gains so much in the braking zone.

“Different riders want different things. Lorenzo for example is not great in the braking zone but he's still one of the best on the track. It seems that throughout my career I've always wanted a bike that can brake deep into the corner, turn and get out of it. But be able to carry good corner speed.

“I think the Honda is a lot better for that this year than it has been. I think they've managed to gain some corner speed, definitely.”

Next season will see Crutchlow make his debut on the factory class RC213V, a machine that has won every race this season in the hands of world champion Marc Marquez and Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa.

Crutchlow intends to pick up where he left off at the end of 2013, when he finished fifth in the world championship with four podiums.

“You are never going to be on a full factory bike as a satellite rider, but you can be close. My [Tech 3] bike was close enough for podiums. I would like to think that I should be competing for podiums again. It's going to take some time I believe to adjust to the Honda as well, because it's not an easy bike to ride at all.

“Everybody believes you can just jump on a Honda and be winning. It doesn't happen like that at all. But I think there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to battle to again be the top satellite rider. That has to be the aim first and foremost, and then challenge as much as possible at the front.”

Crutchlow insists he will not be haunted by one poor season at Ducati, having fought back from tougher situations.

“In 2011 if someone had offered me the chance to go back to Superbike halfway through the year I'd have taken it. It was that bad. And the next year I came out and finished fourth behind three Factory guys in round one at Qatar. That could happen again next year. I don't look at it as, 'I'm going slow this year so maybe next year will be tough'.

“I have no concerns in my ability. I know I can be fast. Last year I had a bike that wasn't superior to the others - but it was still very, very good. I was able to compete with the Factory guys and I don't think there was a race where I was really struggling. I intend to do that again next year. But one thing is for certain, this year's top four will always be competing for the top four next year.”

Crutchlow is also untroubled by LCR's present rider Stefan Bradl only being ninth in the world championship. “I'm not concerned with the machinery, team or anything like that. Bradl hasn't had his best season but that's just the way it goes.”

Turning back to Ducati, which hasn't won a race since Casey Stoner left at the end of 2010, Crutchlow gave his view on why the Italian manufacturer continues to struggle.

“I think because they are always a step behind in development,” he began. “They are always playing catch-up with regards to development of the bikes. They know how to build a bike, they just haven't got enough time.

“Gigi [Dall'Igna, Ducati Corse general manager] is doing a great job, but he's only just come in. He's had so many things to change but I think he's done a good job of changing things as and when he has. But again they are already behind with regards to next year's bike compared to the other teams.”

While Honda and Yamaha were testing their 2015 machines at Brno last week, Dall'Igna confirmed that Ducati's heavily redesigned GP15 will not debut until February.

“One thing I will say is that I believe that in Ducati there are some of the cleverest guys in the whole paddock,” Crutchlow continued.

“It's just that they are always playing catch-up. The 2014 bike was not too dissimilar from the 2013 bike, but it came out at Sepang at the start of this year and the other guys [first tried] their 2014 bikes halfway through last year.

“It's a difficult one but I believe once they get on top of it they will be at the front again, no doubt.

“They've got two really strong riders for next year and they are able to compete to an extent now. I look forward to seeing Ducati back at the front and competitive for a full race. I think they deserve it for all the effort they have put in.”

MotoGP comes to Silverstone on August 29-31, coverage starts from Friday at 8:30am and continues on Saturday and Sunday exclusively live on BT Sport.


Tagged as: Ducati , Cal Crutchlow

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Rayzerp2

August 23, 2014 11:22 AM

benignlyindifferent: Hmm. A MotoGP rider admitting he does not brake very well. Is it just me or do others find this strange as well?
It's all relative. It's like saying that in cycling Mark Cavendish does not climb well or Wiggins does not sprint well......they would crucify an amateur at either but in the pro ranks it's not their strong point. Anybody who can out qualify the factory Yamahas a few times last year knows which lever does what.

PaulW54

August 23, 2014 10:48 AM

Good interview, Cal very complimentary towards Ducati and their riders. When someone who actually knows and has the experience to articulate the technical differences in Moto GP, it is refreshing compared to the constant criticism of some. Good one Cal, I for one respect and enjoy the success you have had in your career so far and believe there will be plenty more to come.



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