The final round of the 2017 season, the Valencia Grand Prix was not an easy and smooth weekend for the experienced LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow.
The 32-year-old Briton started the weekend 8th quickest on Friday, but he was unable to set a fast enough pace on Saturday in FP3, which placed him 13th on the combined timesheets. He had to go through the slower group’s qualifying session, Qualifying 1. Crutchlow intended to set two of the best lap times and proceed to Qualifying 2, but to no avail. During the session, he crashed at one of the few right-handers of the track, Turn 10, hindering him on the flying lap. As a result, he was to start the race from far back on the grid in 16th place.
“MotoGP is always tough, but starting from back there is going to make it difficult.”
Crutchlow, despite his competitiveness, had to expect a very tough race.
“We’ll see what we can do in the race tomorrow. We’ll be a lot faster and a lot more positive in the race, our race pace is about top six or seven, but it’s just getting through everyone. We’ll try our hardest and see what happens.”
On Sunday, he was true to his word. Starting from 16th grid, he overtook rider after rider, finishing the race in 8th place, 8 places up.
“I started way too far back, it’s as simple as that, but obviously we have to be happy with a solid enough result. To be in the top ten I thought would be good enough, because starting 16th at a track like this is always difficult. We made some good passes and I rode a good race the last ten laps, I was really able to push, but I just ran out of time to get the guys ahead.”
After 18 races full of drama, Crutchlow concluded the 2017 season in 9th place.
“I suppose the season has been average, we’ve had some great races, some fourths and fifths along the way.”
It was not his best season. In order to bounce back stronger, Crutchlow kept on working hard with his team at the Valencia circuit for two days of testing for the forthcoming 2018 season. He rode an energic 127 laps in over the two days, including a back-to-back comparison between the 2017 bike and 2018 prototype, and even did a long run they hadn’t planned at first.
“I did most of the day on the new bike. I did a couple of runs back-to-back, and tested a few things on the old (2017) bike.”
After two days, he said that it gave him a positive feel.
“I felt more comfortable on the old bike because I've been riding it all year, but I was faster on the new one and my comfort level on the (new) bike felt good at the end, run by run.
“The track was cold and I didn't want to make any mistakes because we only had that one bike here. Marc and Dani have only got one each as well, at the moment. So, we were pushing, but not taking too many risks.
“No doubt, Honda has done a good job. In the areas we've asked to improve, it seems we have improved. Sure, it may have created some problems in other areas, but we have to be happy with what we've got, and the next test we will improve again.”
For the 2018 season, Cal Crutchlow has a new teammate: the Japanese MotoGP rookie, Takaaki Nakagami. At the end of the second day, Crutchlow towed his new teammate to show him a trick or two with MotoGP riding.
“I let him follow me on my penultimate run, just to show him a little bit, because he was riding not in a wrong way, but yeah, in a long way! You know, it takes time to get used to these bikes. He needs to pick the bike up a little bit more in the exit. Otherwise, he's riding really good. Anyway, he did a good job, in a great way.”
His practical advice should be very helpful for the rookie. Cal Crutchlow’s 2018 season will be busier, brighter, and hotter than ever.