Goodbye Cal Crutchlow. Again. Possibly


Cal ‘I didn’t want to race!’ Crutchlow was back for his fourth race of 2021, so might he be tempted to return full time?

Cal Crutchlow

Just like the old days: Crutchlow leads Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi at Aragon on Sunday


Cal Crutchlow retired from motorcycle racing at Portimao last November. Then – according to his new test-rider contract at Yamaha – he returned at last month’s Styrian GP, subbing for injured Petronas Yamaha rider Franky Morbidelli. Then he was back again at Silverstone, this time wearing factory Yamaha leathers alongside Fabio Quartararo, following the blow-up between factory bosses and Maverick Viñales.

And he was there again at Aragon, surprising everyone (probably including himself) by ending Friday third fastest! But he won’t be at Misano this week because Morbidelli is back from his knee injury and riding for the factory team.

Crutchlow’s race results haven’t been the kind that once banked him finishing bonuses of several hundred grand a weekend – 17th, 17th, 17th and 16th – but it’s been good having the 35-year-old three-times MotoGP winner back, not so much for entertainment on the racetrack, but for his entertaining ways in the paddock and in his media Zoom debriefs.

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There have been few riders in the history of motorcycle grand prix racing who have treated the media with such giggling disdain as Crutchlow. Perhaps ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, but that’s about it.

On Sunday I made the cardinal sin of entering his post-race Zoom debrief late, after swapping over from the interminable podium Zoom debrief. And I suffered for it.

“Hi Cal, sorry I’m a bit late, I’ve just come off the podium,” I said.

“What, did you win, Mat!?” he answered, laughing hard. “Did you spray some champagne? And is that why you’ve got your neckerchief on?”

That’s the thing with Crutchlow, he’ll even have a pop at any fashion misdemeanours, even though he always wears one of those big fleecy biker neck-warmers on flights to stop his neck getting cold and seizing up. (This is why many ex-racers wear anything that’ll keep their necks warm.)

“I’m always one phone call away from being back again”

“Sorry, I should’ve said I’ve just come from the podium conference,” I replied. “Anyway, this might be your last MotoGP race, in which case was there any emotion, any feelings about your career and are you happy it’s over?”

“No, no emotion – I didn’t want to race anyway!” he said. “But I was happy to come back and do my job for Yamaha. We all thought it was a good idea, because I hadn’t ridden since April.

“I think I’ve done a good job – I got a lot of information for Yamaha and tried a lot of things in those four races, with no mistakes and no crashes [he’s right, zero crashes], which is important to have four full-race distances at four different tracks.

Cal Crutchlow

Crutchlow’s laughing face will be missed when it finally disappears from the MotoGP paddock


“I did a good race today with my lap times comparing with Fabio’s, who had a difficult race. My way of riding is different, which is fine. It’s all part of the bigger plan, which is to make him world champion, and if you can have a bad day and finish eighth like he did today, then this is OK. Now I’m looking forward to watching from home, helping when I can and I will test here again in two weeks to start the 2022 project.

“Emotion-wise, don’t forget I’m always one phone call away from being back again and that’s the reality of my job, because when a manufacturer has four riders it’s not always easy to keep them fit and healthy.”

Circumstances played into Yamaha’s hands with Crutchlow’s return because he’s been able to make direct comparisons between the 2019 YZR-M1, which last year was more successful than the 2020 M1, and this year’s M1, which was created to reproduce the front-end feel and corner-attack abilities of the 2019 bike

“The 2021 is more like the 2019 than the 2020 bike was,” he added. “I believed the strength we have in braking with the 2021 bike is a lot better than the 2019, but we still need to make bike turn better and easier to ride, so that’s our plan.”

Crutchlow’s feedback seems to correspond with Quartararo, who loves the 2021 M1’s front end bike but finds the machine much harder to handle, which is why he’s always climbing around the bike like a circus performer – nothing like Jorge Lorenzo when he was winning with the M1 on Bridgestone tyres.

“The only thing about today is that I rode a good race but I got no points, which is shit, because I should’ve got a load of them,” he added. “But this is racing and I got hit so hard on the first lap by another rider that it’s impossible to come back from 19th when you’re racing with the world’s best riders.”

“So, Cal, any chance of a full-time return?”

“No, f****** way!”