After three MotoGP wins and 19 podiums while riding for Tech3 Yamaha, factory Ducati and LCR Honda, Crutchlow was the most successful British rider since Barry Sheene when he halted his grand prix career at the end of 2020.

The Englishman then stepped straight into the role of Yamaha test rider, where his ‘first reserve’ status saw him make four MotoGP starts as a replacement for the injured Franco Morbidelli at SRT and then the departing Maverick Vinales’ at the official team.

The revamped RNF squad will now become Crutchlow’s home for the final six rounds of this season, including the sport’s first races at Motegi, Buriram, Phillip Island and Sepang since 2019.

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“It was the perfect way for me to retire and then take a test riding role, where I could still ride around at a good pace and be able to try and help Yamaha bring their bike forward as best as possible,” Crutchlow told the official MotoGP podcast.

“But coming back and racing is not easy. There's nothing like racing. You can test all you want, feel things and be within a good race pace. But the way the guys are going this year, the field is so strong.

“So I'll just do my job as best as possible, which is still good for Yamaha because we can give information on the current bike.

“It’ll be the [factory-spec] bike of Andrea and I rode for the RNF team in a couple of races last season so I know the staff and people there. I also worked with [team manager] Wilco Zeelenberg back in 2009 when I won my World Supersport championship.

“I'm looking forward to getting back into it. But I think it's six races in eight weeks, and I have two tests also in those eight weeks! So it's going to be a busy period. I went from being the least busy person to being probably the most busy!"

The 36-year-old, who took a best finish of 16th during his four race appearances last season, added:

“I’ve been actively riding more, so I won't come into it as bad as last year. Last year when I came back, I hadn't ridden the bike for just under six months.

“I rode at the first test in Qatar and didn't ride again until Austria. I jumped on the bike, nearly stalled it, nearly hit the pit wall and wobbled off down pit lane!

“I came out of the pit, accelerated and had a massive head rush because of the G forces and the speed. I thought, ‘I hope this goes away!’ But within a lap I was OK.

“This year I hope it will be a little bit different and I'm looking forward to coming back, doing the six races and giving my all for the team and Yamaha. Where that will be [results wise] I have absolutely no idea.

“I have no expectations and we'll just use this as a good period of time to evaluate some things.

“We're fully focused on the ‘23 bike and making that better for our Yamaha riders. Things are going good at the moment. So that's positive for next year.”

Crutchlow: You can’t 'replace' Andrea Dovizioso

“You can't 'replace' Andrea Dovizioso,” Crutchlow said of taking over from the triple title runner-up. “He's been a great rider for so long. He's a good friend. This year hasn't panned out for him, but he's had many, many years that have.

“When we were at Tech3 together, I knew the calibre of rider he was. We're completely different riders, as in our style on the bike, but we were always quite close and competitive.

“Then I joined him in Ducati for a year and he stuck it out, he stayed and I think they were his golden years of racing in MotoGP. He was battling at the front every week, Marc won the championships but Dovi took a couple down to the wire.

“He's a great rider and a great person. I get why he wanted to stop. It's not easy in MotoGP at the moment. When he came to Yamaha, maybe he felt that he would find something a little different after being with Ducati for many years.

“It's also not easy taking the three-quarters of a year off that he took last year and then coming back in, when the guys are all young and all very talented. And if you're not enjoying it, then I see the reason why he stopped [at Misano].”

Crutchlow: I think Darryn Binder’s done fantastically

Crutchlow will slot in alongside rookie Darryn Binder at RNF, the young South African having scored 10 points to date on the 2021-spec Yamaha after leaping straight to the premier-class from Moto3.

“I think Darryn Binder’s done fantastically this year. It's not easy what he's done,” Crutchlow said. “I don't think people really realise he's in the fastest year of MotoGP and what he's doing is very, very good.

“If you look at his lap times and stuff like that. Two years ago, they were the lap times that were winning the race. And that's the reality.”

RNF will switch to Aprilia machinery next season and field an all-new line-up of Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez.