I am writing this column before MotoGP at Brno so it may well be that rather than a prediction you will be reading history: MotoGP will have a new rider for next year – and a rather different one.
Cal Crutchlow is bound for MotoGP, the British rider presumed to fill in aboard the vacant Tech 3 Yamaha seat.
I will be very surprised indeed if Cal Crutchlow doesn’t take the vacant seat in the Tech 3 Yamaha team. He has a long-term game plan and this involves learning the nine tracks of the MotoGP circuit which he doesn’t presently know during 2011. This will prepare Cal for a full on attack on the title in 2012 when 1000cc engines will be the norm.
Clearly, Crutchlow is incredibly, mind-achingly talented at riding a motorcycle fast. However, there are plenty of quick, brave riders in the motorcycling world. What makes Cal so interesting is that he is a very different sort of racer from the merely brilliant. I had a long, informal chat with him after Silverstone, talking about lots of things, and three traits dominated the conversation. These are his startling honesty, his intelligence and his love of motorcycle racing.
Starting at the end, the quote of the year must be: “If I wasn’t good at bike racing I’d be at club meetings sleeping in the back of a van. There’s nothing in the world I’d rather do than race bikes.” Note the absence of: “I want to be rich, famous, have a big house…”
What struck me the most while speaking with Cal Crutchlow were three thngs: his honesty, intelligence and love of motorcycle racing.
More than anything else, Cal wants to ride motorcycles. In fact, he is an enormously talented version of every racer who goes broke during the week so that he can go racing at weekend.
Then there is Cal’s intelligence. He comes from a modest background, and was once a delivery driver, but no-one I ever worked with when I was doing my Master’s degree had more raw brain power. Cal sees things which few in the rest of the world do and this makes him an utterly exceptional motorcycle racer. Not only is he devastatingly quick he can read a race as only a few in the world can. Even in the heat of battle, he has the mental space to take a step back and analyse what is happening in front, behind and all around him. This cognitive gymnastics is pure Rossi.
He is worshipped at Yamaha for his work ethic, perception and self-discipline. He is as demanding as all great riders but at the same time a dedicated team player.
Finally, Cal will bring a much needed breath of honesty to MotoGP. He is confident that he can’t, at this stage, beat Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and the other “aliens”. He is just as sure that he is faster than the second half of the MotoGP field. If he wasn’t certain, he would tell you.
When Cal does win MotoGP races – and he will – fans will find him just as charming, modest and friendly as he is now. I can guarantee that he won’t be doing silly stunts or trying to impress anyone with exaggerated celebrations. He will remain the same smiling and welcoming Cal.
No this is not a hoax! Frank competed in the British Classic Championship race and finished on the podium in third.
What MotoGP wants and needs is a 100%, dedicated racer who loves motorcycling – someone who is one of us but just ever so slightly more talented. Ben Spies is the first part of this package – Cal will be the finishing touch.
I was thinking about Cal when I stood on the podium at the recent British Classic Championship race. No, it’s okay, you’ve not fallen asleep and begun dreaming. Incredibly, I was on podium – albeit on the bottom step – proudly clutching a bottle of genuine, authentic fake champagne; a laurel wreath – and a very nice English pewter hip flask.
It happened like this. The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club is the best organizer of classic racing anywhere. Somehow, they combine slick, highly professional race organization with an intimate, easy going friendliness – an almost impossibly difficult task.
I entered their recent event at the Anglesey race circuit. Pressures of work meant that we couldn’t manage the first two days but we rocked up on the Sunday with the sun beating down and the sea shimmering across the Irish Sea. If there was ever a day to go racing it was this.
We had entered the G.50 in some class or other which I never fully worked out because truthfully Carol and I only go racing as an excuse to play with our G.50 – the most beautiful race bike in the world. The results are always the last thing on our mind.
Whilst we were in Race Control, CRMC Head Honcho, John Davidson persuaded me to run the G.50 in the British Championship race – along with all the really trick, carbon fiber and electronic ignition, super classic bikes.
Even though the original plan was to pull in after a few laps, the G.50 was running perfectly and before Frank knew it I was passing people, with the podium in mind.
I wasn’t desperately keen on the idea but John said that everyone would love to see the G.50 run round in its original, unmodernized, naked form. We really like the CRMC people so I agreed to start from the back of the grid, do a few demo laps and then pull in. Carol thought that this would be a fair compromise too.
So, I roll up to the very last row of the grid, the lights – which seem to be about a mile away – flick out and off we go. In front was one of the world’s great circuits in terms of riding pleasure; beneath me a genuine 1962 Grand Prix bike and above the shining sun. Seriously, how good could life get?
Because it was a championship round, the race was fifteen laps – and for a fat, bald, old wrinkly like me that is a long way. But the G.50 was running to perfection, Carol was waving enthusiastically from the banking and, incredibly, I started to pass people. In fact, I was having so much fun that I forgot to pull in and finished third in my class.
Surprisingly, my stunning success has not resulted in a ‘phone call from Hervé Poncharal at Tech 3 – or even an offer from HRC to partner Pedrosa and Stoner. I put this down to one simple thing. All three of us on the podium clung grimly on to our genuine fake champagne and not a single molecule was sprayed anywhere. There was no way on this earth that you would get a classic racer wasting alcohol and clearly this means that we lack the key skill necessary for life in MotoGP.