Cal Crutchlow has expressed disappointment at Honda’s refusal to return three engineers that left his corner of the LCR garage at the close of 2018, feeling they “should make me stronger, not weaker.”

In a bid to build the ideal squad for Jorge Lorenzo at this time last year, two of Crutchlow’s electronics technicians – Arlan Holterman and Marco Barbiani – were moved up to the factory squad, as well as experienced engineer Gianni Berti. All three are contracted to HRC.

The move came despite the protestations of the Englishman and crew chief Christophe Bourguinon at the end of last year. “It was disappointing,” Crutchlow said.

With Lorenzo now retired and Alex Marquez finding his feet as a MotoGP rookie, Crutchlow feels working with those three faces would be of greater benefit to him than Repsol Honda’s new arrival.

“The ironic thing is I have no idea what's changing for next year but something will be changing.

“As I said, Honda took my guys away from me and surely from my point of view, I'm the only guy that can go on the podium with Marc this year, the year before, the year before that and probably next year.

“I hope Taka [Nakagami – team-mate] makes a step and I think he will. But the closest guy to Marc is me, so surely you should make me stronger and not weaker.

“And they took my guys away from me last year and it was disappointing. And they're not giving them back to me. Even though I think it will not make too much of a difference with Alex. It would make a big difference to me but not really to Alex. He's learning.

“But this is the way it is and have to accept it. They took them from the team and then they put them in [Repsol] Honda."

On the Valencia test as a whole, where Crutchlow tested an early prototype of Honda’s 2020 machine and posted the fourth quickest time, he said, “We have to be positive with the bike they've brought us.

“We have to be positive that they’ve made a step in some areas and I feel a bit more comfortable and confident on the bike. But as far as the bike is concerned with regards to it being easier to ride, it's not.

“We need to still improve that over the winter and I think that hopefully they can. But on a general feeling I managed to go faster than I'd been all weekend and this has to be a positive thing on a bike that has only done two days here in Valencia.

“I didn't try my race weekend bike particularly today. I did one run on it at the end of the day and I'm sure I could have gone faster on that as well. But the information is what we need on the 2020 bike.

“Unfortunately I had a little crash, completely my own fault. It was in the first gear hairpin and I was nearly on the apex and just had a little bit of chatter, because I hung onto the brake a little too long. This is part of testing and nothing was damaged, which was good and we managed to save our prototype bike.

“I would say I've gained some front feeling with the bike. Not as much as I believe I need or believe we need as a manufacturer. But the good thing is it's the first roll out and honestly again today we have done nothing with the setting of the bike. Not even touched it.

“We've tested parts and then when you test parts if you change the bike suspension wise or length or height, the part is irrelevant to the one you’ve just tested before. So you have to leave everything the same.

“So out of the packet I think the bike has done well, as regards to we left it and it wasn't my preferred setting. I think they’ve done a good job, but I think they’ve got a lot of hard work as well, with regards to making the bike easier for us to ride over race distance.”

Crutchlow also revealed his made a final decision on whether he would have the metal plates in his right ankle – a consequence of last year’s horror spill at Phillip Island – removed this winter.

“It’s been a big discussion about what to do. I was going to miss the Jerez test and have the operation on my ankle to take the plates out, but now that seems not feasible because we can't get a guarantee that the bone will grow by the time that I have to ride the bike again,” he said.

“I don’t want a winter of rehabilitation. I do believe it's the best thing to get them out but in that short window, because of this Jerez test it's ten days difference, ten days more bone growth on my ankle.

“I would have risked it if we never had this Jerez test but I think I've got to go and I've decided not to have them out but like today now I'm not in pain, but two days ago it's horrendous.

“And in a week's time it might be fine, or worse. Now if they take the metal out will it get worse also for next year, I don’t know, that could be a risk because they touch the nerve and stuff like that.

“But now I can't wait, I'll be able to cycle all December! I might delay the winter training plan a little, normally I start on December 1st and do probably about 100 hours in December and 100 in January.

“So I may take a week and start a little bit later. But it depends how I feel when I get to California.”

 

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