In the wake of a wave of criticism of comments that he made in the aftermath of the Portuguese World Superbike Championship round at the weekend, Cal Crutchlow has hit back by insisting that his remarks were misinterpreted, that he hates being wrongly perceived as 'arrogant and big-headed' and that he has 'massive respect' for Yamaha team-mate and two-time WSBK Champion James Toseland.
After crashing whilst endeavouring to catch the leaders in the closing stages of the first race at Portimão, Crutchlow said afterwards in a television interview that on the positive side he had been fighting up at the sharp end whilst Toseland was a quarter of a minute behind him. That has led to a barrage of negative energy directed against the WSBK rookie – but in a frank and open interview with Crash.net
, he is adamant that it is unjustified.
“I think what I've said people are taking completely the wrong way – I hope that's what it is,” he confessed. “When I said James was 15 seconds back at the flag, I actually meant that he was injured at the weekend, so he wasn't going to be winning the race with a broken hand. I never meant it in a bad way at all.
“People say I've got no respect for James, when actually the main guy I've got respect for in the whole championship is James. Everybody knows he is probably one of the best riders out there with his proven track record – he's won the championship twice and is the guy at the moment with the most titles and wins to his name in World Superbikes along with [Troy] Corser. We get on really well as friends and we get on as team-mates. I've not said a bad word about him, and I never meant what I said on Sunday in the way that it was taken at all.
“I'm not going to disrespect any rider out there, and I don't want the public to perceive me as cocky or arrogant or anything like that – I'd rather they think I'm a good rider and a nice guy than an idiot. Every time you do something half-decent, all they want to do is knock you back; if they were behind me a bit, it would be a lot more helpful. Yeah, sometimes I'm sure I create a rod for my own back with some things that I say and I understand that – but I'm not an idiot, and I know how to ride a motorbike. I won a world title for a reason – and that's because I rode well.
“I remember everybody getting on at [Leon] Haslam last year, and then as soon as he does well everyone's saying he's great again. I just want people to know that I'm a genuine nice guy and that I'm not arrogant. I can have a laugh and a joke but I take my racing very seriously. I'm a young rider in a position of riding for a factory team in Yamaha, and if I make a few comments here and there, that's just what happens.”
As to the accident in race one in the Algarve, Crutchlow admitted that he was 'riding his balls off' to keep up with faster bikes, given that the Yamaha package is still not quite on the outright front-running pace. Never less than honest, the 24-year-old is open about the fact that he has arguably had to work harder for success when he has achieved it than some of his rivals, benefitting less from God-given natural talent – and as such, when he does make it up onto the rostrum he is unashamedly and deservedly proud of having done so.
“If you make a mistake, you make a mistake,” he contended, “and at Portimão I held my hands up to it and that was it. I got slated, though, and some people have been saying 'I can't wait for him to crash' – and you can't say stuff like that. If they've ever been thrown off a motorbike before they'll know what it's like, and it isn't very nice, especially when you have to go up in race two and ride again.
“The job wasn't going so good in Australia but now it's going okay, so obviously I'm proud of that. Coming to Portugal and getting a pole and a podium – I know it isn't a world title, but it's a step in the right direction – I don't need criticising for being proud and feeling that I'm doing well, and I don't think James needs criticising for having come back from MotoGP and blah, blah, blah. They give him a hell of a lot of stick, and then when I say something they give me a hell of a lot of stick too.