In the wake of a wave of criticism of comments that he made in the aftermath of the Portuguese World Superbike Championship round at the weekend, Cal Crutchlow has hit back by insisting that his remarks were misinterpreted, that he hates being wrongly perceived as 'arrogant and big-headed' and that he has 'massive respect' for Yamaha team-mate and two-time WSBK Champion James Toseland.

After crashing whilst endeavouring to catch the leaders in the closing stages of the first race at Portim?o, Crutchlow said afterwards in a television interview that on the positive side he had been fighting up at the sharp end whilst Toseland was a quarter of a minute behind him. That has led to a barrage of negative energy directed against the WSBK rookie - but in a frank and open interview with, he is adamant that it is unjustified.

"I think what I've said people are taking completely the wrong way - I hope that's what it is," he confessed. "When I said James was 15 seconds back at the flag, I actually meant that he was injured at the weekend, so he wasn't going to be winning the race with a broken hand. I never meant it in a bad way at all.

"People say I've got no respect for James, when actually the main guy I've got respect for in the whole championship is James. Everybody knows he is probably one of the best riders out there with his proven track record - he's won the championship twice and is the guy at the moment with the most titles and wins to his name in World Superbikes along with [Troy] Corser. We get on really well as friends and we get on as team-mates. I've not said a bad word about him, and I never meant what I said on Sunday in the way that it was taken at all.

"I'm not going to disrespect any rider out there, and I don't want the public to perceive me as cocky or arrogant or anything like that - I'd rather they think I'm a good rider and a nice guy than an idiot. Every time you do something half-decent, all they want to do is knock you back; if they were behind me a bit, it would be a lot more helpful. Yeah, sometimes I'm sure I create a rod for my own back with some things that I say and I understand that - but I'm not an idiot, and I know how to ride a motorbike. I won a world title for a reason - and that's because I rode well.

"I remember everybody getting on at [Leon] Haslam last year, and then as soon as he does well everyone's saying he's great again. I just want people to know that I'm a genuine nice guy and that I'm not arrogant. I can have a laugh and a joke but I take my racing very seriously. I'm a young rider in a position of riding for a factory team in Yamaha, and if I make a few comments here and there, that's just what happens."

As to the accident in race one in the Algarve, Crutchlow admitted that he was 'riding his balls off' to keep up with faster bikes, given that the Yamaha package is still not quite on the outright front-running pace. Never less than honest, the 24-year-old is open about the fact that he has arguably had to work harder for success when he has achieved it than some of his rivals, benefitting less from God-given natural talent - and as such, when he does make it up onto the rostrum he is unashamedly and deservedly proud of having done so.

"If you make a mistake, you make a mistake," he contended, "and at Portim?o I held my hands up to it and that was it. I got slated, though, and some people have been saying 'I can't wait for him to crash' - and you can't say stuff like that. If they've ever been thrown off a motorbike before they'll know what it's like, and it isn't very nice, especially when you have to go up in race two and ride again.

"The job wasn't going so good in Australia but now it's going okay, so obviously I'm proud of that. Coming to Portugal and getting a pole and a podium - I know it isn't a world title, but it's a step in the right direction - I don't need criticising for being proud and feeling that I'm doing well, and I don't think James needs criticising for having come back from MotoGP and blah, blah, blah. They give him a hell of a lot of stick, and then when I say something they give me a hell of a lot of stick too.

"At the end of the day, the fans are not in the garage. James and I both struggled in Australia and we know why. We tried to defend ourselves and Yamaha, saying they were doing a good job which they were, but seriously we had really bad problems with the bike, and it was as simple as that. James and I are both world champions - we're not bad riders. We struggled that weekend, but we openly admitted we struggled. You get so much stick for it, but people don't know what's going on and you try to explain it, they say it's an excuse.

"I know Ben [Spies] went there and won last year, but it is a completely different bike. Yamaha have said that, we've said that, but I don't know what you have to do to get people to understand that if you're saying that's what's true then it's true. If we're struggling with the package, then we're struggling with the package and we have to make it right.

"We made a much better job of it in Portugal. All I did was praise Yamaha, praise me and James for the development of it, got on and did the job and got a podium. To be the first Yamaha home was nice, because it's hard battling at the front at the minute. In race one, I wore both my tyres out trying to catch the front guys because I got a poor start; I was catching the front guys and I just made a stupid mistake. I crashed yes, but I was trying, and there's not much more you can do.

"People say sometimes you should just settle for points, but that's not my philosophy. I'm open to criticism - that's what racing is about and what being a person is about, trying to make yourself better, and if you have criticism then you act upon it. If I have to change my approach or Yamaha tell me to change it then I will - if they tell me I'm doing something wrong, I will openly try and get it sorted - but at the moment all I'm going to change is making comments that make people think I'm an idiot when I'm actually not. I want them to think that I'm a good guy and I want them to get behind me.

"At the circuits [the reception he gets from fans is] perfect, fantastic, so I hate it when people say I'm arrogant and big-headed, because I'm really, really not. I think that I'm good at my job, and I haven't got here just through being gifted - I've had to work hard to get it. That's what I want people to know. It's not easy, and it's especially not easy when you've moved into the Yamaha World Superbike team and you're up against it. Ben won the championship last year with the Yamaha, but it was a different bike - and Ben is an absolutely fantastic rider and something very, very special. That's why he's running top three in MotoGP at the minute, and there aren't many people who have done that on a satellite team bike. That shows his calibre, and to step up to his plate is a hard job.

"People think all the riders in the paddock were born gifted, when actually I and a lot of other riders came from a normal background. A lot of other riders are so natural it's unbelievable. I don't think I'm a naturally talented motorbike rider; I can ride a motorbike well and I can ride a motorbike fast, but I've had to really work hard to do it. With the help of people around me and working hard on and off the track personally, I've turned myself into what I think is a half-decent motorbike rider.

"I'm not saying I'm the best in the world - I've never said that - but it takes a lot more effort for me to do it than others, I feel. That's why I've got so much determination, and maybe sometimes that's why I make the comments I make, because I feel like I have busted my ass permanently to do it when others don't necessarily have to - and when I do get a good result, obviously I feel a lot more elated than others because I know how much I've worked for it. Seriously, I'm not natural at anything I don't think - I have to really work hard at my training, I have to really work hard off the track with the business aspects of it. Racing isn't just about riding a motorbike anymore - it used to be, but it isn't now.

"The repayments have been winning a world title last year and now doing okay in Superbikes. I know I've only finished third in one race and I'm not jumping ahead of myself - I've never said that I'm going to go and win all the races. I'm just taking it how it comes. I don't want to be someone that never makes a comment now because people jump on my back as soon as I make it. I want to be able to say what I think and have people get behind me and say 'have a good race' instead of saying 'I hope he crashes'.

"I'm just optimistic and open in saying I'll do the best job I can and will see where it gets me. When I made the comment saying the pole position in Portugal wasn't really a surprise, it wasn't a surprise, because I know once we get the bike right we can run up there. What's wrong with saying that it wasn't a surprise? I don't think that was being big-headed; I was humble as well in saying that everybody else did a good job and I couldn't believe that I had such an advantage, but it was down to the package and managing to put a good lap together. People perceive me as being arrogant and big-headed for saying that - and I don't want them to.

"I thank all the people who always support me and want me to do well. I want to become a fans' favourite and I think I am with my riding style, but I will change the comments I make because I don't want to fuel the fire for people to think that I'm an idiot when I'm not. To get respect I know I've got to earn it, and as long as I'm getting the results on-track hopefully I'll do that."


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