Over a ten-year MotoGP career, Cal Crutchlow shared a garage with Colin Edwards, Andrea Dovizioso, Bradley Smith, Jack Miller and Takaaki Nakagami during spells at Tech3 Yamaha, Ducati and LCR Honda.

Of those, Nakagami would prove to be Crutchlow's longest-serving MotoGP team-mate, the pair spending three seasons together after the Japanese arrived at LCR as a rookie in 2018.

Their personalities couldn't have been more different and the competitive nature of MotoGP meant the relationship eventually became tense at times, but Nakagami remains surprised and grateful for the level of help offered by the Englishman, especially during his first steps in the premier-class.

"I'm a bit sad Cal is leaving Honda and moving to Yamaha as a test rider. But best of luck to Cal. It has been really nice to stay by his side as a team-mate for three years," Nakagami said.

"Especially the first year, from Moto2 to MotoGP, he helped a lot, incredible. I've never seen a team-mate help so much. In the tests, in the season, also some practices when he had time I was able to follow him.

"He always took care of how I needed to adapt from Moto2 to MotoGP, and he always took care to see what was going on, how I feel with the MotoGP bike. It was really serious, always taking care of me.

"I learned from him some tips about how to ride the Honda because he had a lot of experience from the Yamaha, Ducati and Honda. So he got a lot of feeling of different manufacturers. He explained that with the Honda bike 'you have to do this, you have to ride it like this'."

Nakagami soaked up the advice, helping him rise from just 20th in the world championship during his rookie season to 10th and top Honda this season, where he also celebrated his debut pole position and became a podium and even victory contender for the first time.

Such form also helped Nakagami secure promotion to the latest-spec RCV for 2021.

By contrast, a succession of injuries meant triple race winner Crutchlow suffered his worst year in grand prix, but Nakagami said he still benefited from being team-mate to the #35.

"Even now I'm pleased to stay alongside him. He has a great potential for the riders, his riding looks very aggressive on TV, but in reality, he is very sensitive, and I can see from data he is the most balanced of the riders," Nakagami said.

"Marc [Marquez] is a bit more aggressive, he is difficult to copy. But with Cal, it's not like Marc's style, it's easier to copy, he has really good speed, also very strong on the braking and on the corner exit. So I am always looking at his data to see how he picks up the bike.

"This year he struggled a little bit, but I always looked at his data because even at times when he was one-second slower than me there were always some places, some corners - especially corner exit - where he was slightly faster than me. So I tried to pick up on his strong points and copy his riding style, and it helps a lot.

"I can say that I learnt many things from him, and that’s why now, fortunately, I can now fight with him. In the first year this was impossible, but now you can see from my second year and also this season, in many races we were able to fight and beat him. I made a [big] step from his advice. It was a great experience to spend three years with Cal. If he was not helping a lot, then I think I would have struggled more.

"So I want to say thanks to Cal because he's a great person. Hopefully we can have a coffee together sometime, and I can spend some relaxed time with Cal."

Away from discussing the complexities of mastering the RCV, Nakagami admitted he was initially confused by Crutchlow's character. But 'after a few months' he began to understand the Englishman's sense of humour and the blunt nature of his comments.

"He's a really nice person. But if he thinks [something] he will say it straight away, during the race weekend and outside of it," Nakagami said.

"I like Cal's character, he is always joking. It was difficult for me to understand if he was talking seriously or not. But now, I'm not listening to every word, because he is always joking, almost never serious!"

Alex Marquez will take over Crutchlow's seat alongside Nakagami for 2021.

'A unique rider, it's been a pleasure'

Aleix Espargaro never shared a garage with Crutchlow but was standing alongside the Englishman when he took his only MotoGP podium to date at Aragon 2014.

Before talking about his own experiences in this year's Portimao finale, Espargaro paid tribute to the #35.

"The first thing I want to say is that it has been a pleasure to race many years with Cal Crutchlow. He's a rider that I felt very close to, I like his lifestyle and his approach to life and racing, on and off track.

"I already said to him I will swap helmets with him, but I would like to say to everybody that today was the last race for a unique rider and it's been a pleasure."

While hanging up his full-time MotoGP leathers, Crutchlow may yet compete as a wild-card as a part of his new development role at Yamaha

 

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