Prior to his first podium finish of year in Argentina, two-time MotoGP race winner Cal Crutchlow sat down with to discuss his current form, his options for the 2018 season, and whether he sees himself competing at this level for another five years...
Would you say you're currently riding as well as you ever have done?

Cal Crutchlow:
I think it could be the strongest I've ever ridden but also at the start of last year I was riding very well. I just had the worst luck and also made some small mistakes that I shouldn't have made. But what happened to me at the start of last year I couldn't believe. It just wasn't really real. But I was riding well. At Qatar last year I was riding around with a bike that didn't know where it was and I was still battling for fifth. Sam Lowes had the same thing this year and he was doing 2m laps. Sam's doing a great job and he finished the race, which I couldn't believe, because I jumped off the thing last year. And this year!

But I believe I am riding well, yes. I believe that, again - I've said the same thing over and over - Honda has the most versatile riders. When I was riding at Tech 3, I thought I'd win a race. I wish I had. At that moment if I had won a race I'd be in a lot stronger position than what I am in. Obviously I left Ducati. I came here to Honda. But I think my career would have had a different path. Maybe I'd have stayed with Yamaha. I did get an option to stay at Yamaha. The factory wanted me to stay at Yamaha. I obviously chose to go to Ducati for some reasons and I chose to leave. I believe my last two or three years have made me a stronger rider. No matter what anyone says, no one understands what it's like to ride a Honda until you ride it and until you compete on the same bike as Marc Marquez. It's as simple as that. He does some things fantastic.

So to answer your question, I think I am close [to my best], yeah. I had a great year last year. But I have a great team and it was good to have a good year. The people around me deserved it. Hopefully this year will go just as well.
You've said many times over the past year that the Honda is a difficult bike to control. Does finding ways of going fast on the RC213V enhance you as a rider too?

Cal Crutchlow:
Even the first year I came to Honda I was competitive but not superb. I didn't have the greatest of seasons but I was competitive at some circuits. I was understanding three different bikes in three years. I felt that I did a good job for Honda in that year to bring the experience of riding a Yamaha and a Ducati. Everyone that had always ridden a Honda. Marc and Dani. Dani has never ridden anything else. Neither has Marc. So it was nice to be able to give my input that year.

Last year was better. Now I find myself in a role where I'm willing to help the manufacturer. We know the way some of the riders work. They're interested in their own balls only. I'm probably at a different stage in my career, where I know that helping the manufacturer is also going to help me. I do understand other riders just want to work for themselves. But there aren't many people in the championship that have my experience of riding different bikes. And I understand the bikes I ride a lot better than other people. Just because I'm not as fast as them doesn't mean I don't understand them. It's just sometimes I can't do what they do. The stuff I've done for Honda, for Marc, the contribution of testing, trying things before them, and making sure it works as best as possible, I've done a lot of that. In the end it's beneficial to me as well.
Does that give you as much satisfaction, knowing you're contributing and developing parts for a factory, as much as a good result?

Cal Crutchlow:
Yeah, but on the other hand I could say I feel that Honda are in a difficult period at the moment. I'm absolutely adamant if they did two things that they need to do, they would be so competitive. Getting them to do it... Last year, it was the engine and the new electronics package. They left the chassis, give or take. They didn't do so much in that area. Now, it's the engine again. The bike looks identical to what it did three years ago. That's not to say they're not trying. I've been to the factory and seen the hard work that goes in. It's superb. They are working non-stop. The Japanese engineers, the Italian engineers in HRC, and also in my team, the work is non-stop. But the improvement is less than the other manufacturers. I think the riders at Honda are better than a lot of the other guys on the grid. The reality is there to see with [Jonas] Folger and [Johann] Zarco. They jump on a good package and they're right there. And they're not the best riders in the world. [I'm] Sure. I can guarantee it. You put them on a Honda and they're where Tito [Rabat] is. Put Tito and Jack [Miller] where they are on that Yamaha and they'd be where Folger and Zarco are. Their bike [the M1] is very neutral to ride. It's very easy to ride and the Honda is not. Not many people can get their head around it.
Some of the issues you are encountering with this year's bike sound very similar to what you - and the Repsol guys - complained of in 2016. Is that surprising?

Cal Crutchlow:
We can't say they are not trying. But Marc rides around a lot of things that nobody else can ride around. Honda listen but it's not as easy as just turning up at the next race with something. We're struggling with acceleration and top speed. A lot of it is not horsepower. It's grip and how you accelerate out of the corner. The Yamaha for years, it was never as fast as other manufacturers, but Jorge [Lorenzo] won the title and the bike got round the track the fastest because it was smooth. It had mega acceleration because of the grip. Then at the end of the straight it was still going at a reasonable speed because it came out of the corner two tenths faster than anything else. We're struggling out of the corners really. It's more to do with the grip and the wheelie. We said this numerous times and it doesn't seem that it's changed so much. I hope it changes this year. It's getting clearer to see on the TV, on data, on many things. Last year was tough but Marc made an incredible championship. This year, because we were closer in testing, everyone said it's better. The reality is we are riding better and harder to be competitive. Or our competitors have slowed down a little bit.

In the 'From Cervera to Tokyo' documentary, which details Marquez's 2016 championship victory, Marc mentions some of the issues he had in ably communicating with HRC engineers. At one race he is asked about the 'floating' feeling even though he had spoken of it for some time. Is this communication sometimes a factor?

Cal Crutchlow:
There's no other bike in this championship that floats. You can't believe. We're constantly saving the bike in the middle of the corner, with the rear coming round, and we're saving it going in with the front. The time gap between releasing the brake and waiting to open the throttle is a long time because the thing is sliding. But Marc is so good at it because of his flat track. And it's the way he rides. It's the way he rode a 125, never mind a Moto2 bike. Now he's able to continue it here. It's difficult for everyone else to do it.

The language barrier, I don't see a massive problem because I speak to them in full English and they understand that more than Spanish. Marc speaks good English, don't get me wrong. The problem is the technicians have never ridden a motorcycle before. When you have technicians in other manufacturers that have, and they have this liaison person in the middle - Wilco [Zeelenberg] for Yamaha. The Italians [at Ducati] all speak Italian and have [Michele] Pirro, who is also a test rider and a guy in the middle. [Davide] Tardozzi is an ex-racer. When we had Alberto [Puig] here, I used to speak with him. He understood. But then I think it was difficult for Alberto to tell the engineers. If they knew how to stop it, they would. They can see it. But I don't think there's a massive language barrier.

[At this point Jack Miller pops his head into the room where the interview is being conducted. A brief expletive-laden exchange ensues at speed during which both men discuss free practice, certain riders and tyre compounds. It ends with Crutchlow joking that the young Australian should let him become his manager. Miller grins and swiftly departs.]
Is that something you see yourself doing in the future, managing younger riders like Jack?

Cal Crutchlow:
I know this year Honda are putting a lot behind him. They have to and they want that project with Jack to work. They invested a lot of time, money and resources getting it to work. Jack is probably one of the most naturally talented riders on the grid. But I think it will be difficult for him to be as competitive on a Honda as he would with someone else. But that's the same across the board. Being a guy that always says his feelings, I would look after Jack, sure. But it would be difficult to do so when I'm racing. Not being a competitive thing. I try and help him now because it's no skin off my back. Do I think he can beat me? No. Because if I thought that, I wouldn't even bother being here. It's no skin off my back to help him. It's no skin off my back to help Sam Lowes. As I told you before, it's no skin off my back to help Marc, because I think that'll help me.

We're selfish in the end. Being a guy that always says what I believe and feel. If Dani Pedrosa rode the Yamaha he'd have won the championship a long time ago. If Marc Marquez rode the Ducati he'd win the championship immediately. And, like we're seeing with Maverick, on the Yamaha I think he's going to be a lot more competitive.

I get on well with the HRC staff and bosses. I get on with Livio [Suppo] great. Livio said in Motorcycle News some time ago that the best championship would be everyone would get a base salary. Every three races they'd change manufacturer. That, for me, would be the best series there could ever be. It's never going to happen. Then, all these guys in MotoGP on massive money, what they'd earn would be bonuses from the manufacturer they'd be with. Honestly, that'd be my big opportunity to win the championship. It'd be great! Livio also said it was never going to happen. But it'd be a great spectacle. I sit there and dream about it at home. I know how the other manufacturers work. And I've shown that I can be fast with all the manufacturers.

My next aim is to maybe try something else. Or to maybe try something that I've been on before. But I'm very happy where I am. I'm out of contract at the moment [at the end of 2017], as we know. I have an offer to stay, sure.
With this team?

Cal Crutchlow:
Yeah, with this team.
But you're exploring the possibility of other manufacturers?

Cal Crutchlow:
Yeah. We have to see how it's going to plan out. I don't believe some of the manufacturers are good enough at the moment. I don't believe they're good enough. Not just in the factory teams, but in the satellite teams. Why not mix it up? I quite like it. People like seeing different things in racing. They like to see how someone's going to go the next year on something else. They also like to see people going badly. I like doing something different to everyone else. That's why a lot of times I've done one-year deals. That's why a lot of times I've left things that maybe I shouldn't have left. That's just me. I always go with what I feel. I go with my heart. Probably it's not the norm - my comments, I'm not going to change. I think I've got a lot of coverage, a lot of press, a lot of friends and fans being the way I am, because I'm normal.

If my wife, my daughter or someone from the close-knit group of people I have around me told me I was doing something wrong, I'd listen a lot more than if somebody else tells me. If someone says that I'm not braking late enough, I can tell them that I'm braking as late as I know. If my wife said it to me I'd probably try and brake a little bit later!
Are you able to say whether the offer to stay here is a two-year contract?

Cal Crutchlow:
I'm not able to say but it would be a long-term thing. I would say it'd be longer than one year. But we don't want more than one year again. I quite like to do something, as you know, different. Maybe I wouldn't want more than one year. I think that would be my choice. That's if it's here. I don't know what Honda's plans are. I don't know what Lucio's [Cecchinello - LCR Honda team boss] plans are, with regards to whether he'll stay with Honda or not. I don't know.
Considering the input you give HRC now, I guess you would only leave Honda if there was an opportunity to work directly with a factory, or have a factory contract?

Cal Crutchlow:
Yeah, I would want a good bike and a good team. There are other good bikes and other good teams in the paddock. I like my team now, sure. If I'm talking about riding for another manufacturer, who's to say Lucio isn't going to be with another manufacturer. I feel that I am the fastest satellite guy. That's for sure. But I think other guys on different machines, as I told you earlier in the interview, have it a lot easier or harder or whatever. I would be interested in all options. Sure, it's not going to be possible to go to the factory Yamaha team. We know that's not going to happen.
This is the second season in a row that you are the lone rider in the LCR Honda squad. Do you feel having a team-mate might benefit you?

Cal Crutchlow:
Now, yes. This might sound stupid, but it's getting a bit boring, being the only rider in the team. The pressure is always on you because you have to get the result for them. You have 60 or 50 staff that come to a race weekend in the team, and they're looking at you for the result. If you don't get it, which I haven't in a lot of the races over the years, they've came there for nothing. I'd prefer a team-mate but I think the way it works with Lucio is very good. I don't think the reason I don't have a team-mate is budget. I honestly don't. I know it's not. Maybe that will change next year. I hope Lucio has another two riders. It's more difficult for him to manage! I know a little bit the plan but obviously it's not for me to say.
Valentino Rossi will still be competing when he's 40. You're 31 now and are still challenging for pole positions and podiums. How long do you see yourself continuing?

Cal Crutchlow:
I do think about it more now than I ever have, which is not great.
Has becoming a father had anything to do with that?

Cal Crutchlow:
I don't know. As I've said, the more I ride fast, the more I'm competitive, and the more I don't think about it. I think about it when I'm walking through the airport. I think about it when I'm sat on a plane. I think about it when I'm home and it's pissing rain, whatever.

But I still have the motivation to do it all. So I still want to do it. When I get on the bike and ride - it's all so stressful - but I keep coming back. It's racing. Also, it gives you this emotion which is massive. I have no intention to stop at the moment, at all. But I have said one million times in interviews, the day that I wake up and I have no motivation to do it, I won't be doing it. A few reasons; I don't need to do it. I don't need to race anymore. From a point of view of living, I can live the rest of my life happily and comfortably. I have some business interests, some investments that I can continue to do. But I still love racing so I'm going to continue doing it.

But the travelling is monotonous now. That's the more difficult part. I fly the best. I have life very easy. Lucio is very kind to me with how I travel. There's no scrimping or scraping on that side of it. There are a lot of Moto3 kids that are a lot, lot worse off than me in that regard. But I've done all that. And I'm still travelling now and that side of it for me is the worst.

Now I have Willow, it's going to be more difficult in a few years bringing her around the world when we want to settle and have friends, and not have to be brought up in a paddock if she doesn't want to. I would rather have a different world to be involved in than the paddock. That's not to say there's anything wrong with that at all. Many riders are the ones that were brought up in the paddock. She's my daughter. I want to do the best for her. My wife also wants to do the best for her. We'll make plans and are making plans for different things. We'll see.

But that doesn't mean in two years I'll stop. It doesn't mean in five years I'll stop. It also doesn't mean next year. I might stop. I don't know. I never look past the next race. It's pointless. If I said at the start of the year that I could be more competitive in the championship, and I honestly believe that I could... But with the package we have I think it's difficult to say, 'OK, let's really challenge.' I think we're going to have some up and down races. But I think we can be faster than last year, which is good, because I think some guys are slower than last year.

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