spoke to LCR Honda boss Lucio Cecchinello on Saturday at Silverstone about Cal Crutchlow's new contract, the possibilities of running a two-rider line up in 2016 and Jack Miller's first season in MotoGP.
The announcement that Cal signed a two-year deal to stay with LCR Honda came just before Silverstone. I imagine this is a relief to finally announce this.

Lucio Cecchinello:
We are happy and glad to have announced a few days ago that we are able to continue with Cal for the next two years. I would like to say that without any doubt Cal is a very good rider. We all know that MotoGP is the toughest racing environment in two-wheel motor sport and there are not so many riders able to push those monster machines at the limit. Cal is definitely one of those guys. We just need to continue to work to provide him with a better bike. At the moment our bike package is probably not the best on the grid. There are some incredible riders like Marc Marquez that found a good balance together with his technicians and engineers. We are a little bit struggling at the moment but we absolutely don't give up, we believe in Cal and that's why we renewed the contract.
You mentioned his ability to push the machine to the limit. Were there other reasons why you wanted to keep Cal on board?

Lucio Cecchinello:
Of course the main topics when we choose the riders are regarding their potential and competitiveness, in terms of pure speed but also the right character in terms of racing approach. He's someone who definitely looks like he doesn't give up easy. He's a fighter. He has a very strong personality on track, against the other riders. It's very important that your riders be fast but also to show to the other riders that he is not scared of anything and he can fight when whatever happens. This is the main reason why we wanted to continue. Then besides that I would also like to say that Cal is a very nice guy. When he has to do anything with the sponsors he is always smiling and joking and he's talking very friendly with everybody. This is also very important, it's another part of the rider's job.
Cal clearly has a wealth of experience, including time spent on Yamaha and Ducati MotoGP machines. Does Honda value Cal's development input going forward?

Lucio Cecchinello:
Definitely. If you look at the reality, especially at the beginning, when Cal started work with us last year there were a lot of engineers around us in pit garage. Everyone was listening very curious to know Cal's comment about the bike. Not always they like the comments because Cal is very straight, doesn't turn around, doesn't hide. He just tells straight what is the situation. I would like to say for Honda, HRC, I think it has been interesting having Cal. Still now Cal, sometimes because he has a fresh experience with Yamaha and Ducati, reminds the engineers what are the better areas, the better points of the other bikes. We are continuing to work for sure.

The Honda is a powerful machine. It has good top speed. The engine torque delivery is probably not the best on the grid. Maybe the chassis is not the best chassis compared to Yamaha and as well Ducati. Honda knows how to fix the problem and they are already building a new bike for next year, which will hopefully be already developed for the winter test. Yeah, we look forward [to it].
Just to clarify, Cal's contract is for two years. Do you hold an option in that contract for the second year?

Lucio Cecchinello:
He is engaged with LCR for two years. Then, of course, I am an independent team who renews the contract with out major suppliers, which is HRC, year by year. In case everything goes well and smooth like it has always been then we will continue with Cal. Of course I need to contractually put the option for a way out in 2017 because Honda have to confirm to me that they would like to have Cal on their 'Factory' bike. Basically it is a two-year contract but imagine if for some reason Honda say, 'We don't want Cal anymore on the 'Factory' bike' I can not really imagine not having a way out of the contract. That's why we point to the fact that it's one year plus one-year option. I mean, it's two years but with the way out, in case HRC say, 'Sorry Lucio, we have no 'Factory' bike for you.' It can be because of Cal, it can be because of us.
Will Cal's equipment in 2016 be similar to that of Marquez and Pedrosa?

Lucio Cecchinello:
Definitely yes. We are still waiting on HRC providing us with the latest information about the package that will be available for us. Honestly speaking, everything will depend very much on the results. HRC is always keen to support when there are performances but when the performances are not there they are less keen to give you the latest, latest, latest updates. Let's say we need to think positive. We need to continue to work harder on our weakest points. There are no other ways or solutions so we will continue to do that.
In Indianapolis Cal said it's normally more difficult to stay with the factory bikes in the second half of the year as the riders settle on set-up. What would represent a good end to the season for LCR Honda?

Lucio Cecchinello:
Let's say that somehow I agree with what Cal said. For sure there are always small conditions that they [the factory team] try, some small improvements in parts but in the end every time HRC has a rider that can stay in the top group every time the new parts arrive free of charge [laughs]. I really hope to be able to slowly rejoin the top four/five group so we will get more effort from Honda. Even more effort than now. From the other side I also understand Cal, that to rejoin the top group he needs some better parts. Honestly I think our major problem is not because we have a different exhaust from Pedrosa or a different suspension update. It's more because we have to still find the right bike set-up and balance for Cal's riding style.

Compared to what we had with Stefan Bradl. We always had the bike very similar to Casey Stoner's bike. Basically the bike position, the spring rate, the hydraulics was quite similar to Stoner. Of course Marquez use another set-up. Pedrosa use another set-up because it depends on their riding style. We started [this year] with Bradl's set-up and during the year we went higher in the rear, higher in the front. Also we went more hard in the rear suspension. Having higher centre of gravity the bike was loaded in the front and the harder rear suspension make the bike very easy to handle in the change of direction, very easy to go into the corner but very difficult controlling the spin. The centre of gravity is quite high, the bike lifts in the rear and we have not so much weight so we have more spin than the other.

Then sometimes when he go into the corner, because of the hard suspension, the acceleration doesn't work very much. It just pushes the front and then Cal lose the front. We do believe that the main problem is not belonging to the fact we have a different exhaust or that we have some small parts difference with Pedrosa and Marquez, which wasn't at the start of the season. It belongs more because Cal's request was always go in this direction, go in this. Go harder, go harder. I think we went in a direction where Cal feels good but it's easy to crash. Soon when there is some lack of grip we have a lot of spin. Now we are trying to force Cal to use the bike more lower and to go in a previous direction with the rear soft spring. Let's say we are still there looking at what is the best balance.
I imagine Cal is still adapting his style to the Honda too...

Lucio Cecchinello:
Yes, but also Cal is strange because when he don't like something - we saw in the past with Yamaha and Ducati - he doesn't really push. But when he find the right package and what he likes he immediately makes bam [indicates with hand moving to higher level]! So, we are waiting for that!
Looking towards Jack Miller, are you closer to knowing whether he will be part of your team in 2016?

Lucio Cecchinello:
Unfortunately at this moment we have to be realistic. We are still working very hard. The chances are not too high at the moment but we are still working before we completely give up the project of a two-rider team, which I love, which I work for years to do. We would like to wait maybe two or three weeks and then make the final decision.
Money is obviously the main reason for this.

Lucio Cecchinello:
Yes, money is the issue. We've already had enough of these issues this year [laughs]!
In Valencia last year HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said he would be satisfied if Jack scored points this year. He did that early on but there have been some difficult moments too. How would you assess Jack's season to date?

Lucio Cecchinello:
Jack is without any doubt an incredibly talented rider. He loves motorbikes. He is able to very fast and definitely he will be one of the top guys in the future, for sure. Of course the jump from Moto3 to MotoGP is huge. But it's not only huge in terms of bike power, riding style; it's also huge in terms of rider mind approach. This year all the guys are really bike obsessed. All work like hell every day to be competitive. Jack, from my point of view, is doing a fantastic job because he has the same bike as an experienced rider like Nicky Hayden, Eugene Laverty, what Scott Redding did with a similar bike last year.

So we are not that far. Especially if you look at the bike of this year; Nicky, Laverty, Abraham, he's already faster than the other three guys. It doesn't matter if he's 19th or 17th on the grid. We have to see where the other riders with the same bike are. Then don't think Nicky became so bad a rider, he didn't lose his ability to be 20th on the grid. I do believe that the Honda 'Open' machine is not really a competitive machine for this year's racing environment, which is really tough. The factories have put a lot of effort and given a lot of good bikes to the riders. I do believe that we are missing some power and competitiveness with this bike.

I'm really happy with Jack's performance. What we need to improve, together with Jack, is the training method. The amount of training he does. He does training. He's working. But the other guys work like hell. Jack already understands this. It took some months. Before there was the honeymoon period. There was the excuse that he was the beginner and he needed time to understand the bike. Now he really understands that if he's fit those guys are double fit. They are Olympic athletes. He just need to continue what he's doing right now because he's started since a few months, working hard and continuing to be there.
I imagine you see this as a positive as it's something you can teach him?

Lucio Cecchinello:
We can slowly tell everybody but of course every rider has his own personality, his own character. I think the best thing to do with a young rider is to teach him, tell him what is your opinion but you don't have to impose. The best way is that they understand what they have to do. When they understand what they have to do they do it. Every MotoGP rider has such a strong personality, if a boss goes in and says, 'You must do this! You must do that!' They listen maybe one time, two times and then they forget. The best thing is because it was like this with me, no? My father told me many times, 'Don't do this! Don't do that!' I didn't listen. When I realised that when I do this or that I will hurt myself then I said, 'Ok, this is the way.'

I do believe that we did our job in the correct way. We give him the opportunity. We give him a bit of time to understand the category, the bike and the jump. Now he understands there are some small areas that he needs to improve and he is working harder and harder. We are pleased to see him so motivated.
He has complained in some races that the front end of the bike gives him no confidence. Yet he's shown fast pace here. Is this something you are close to resolving?

Lucio Cecchinello:
He is improving. We found something this weekend really interesting and he is closer and faster.



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