MotoGP returns to Silverstone this weekend for the British Grand Prix. Cal Crutchlow will be aiming to give the home crowd something to cheer about on his LCR Honda.
Before the race weekend, we spoke with Crutchlow about his fight back from injury, the difficulties of riding the Honda, and his preferences on where the British Grand Prix should take place.
I’d like to begin with the injuries you suffered at Philip Island last year. I believe you had two or three operations over the winter?
I had two, but I had them immediately. I had one immediately that night [of the crash] and then I had another six days later.
Your injuries were quite severe, what was the process following the crash?
Honestly speaking, I crashed the bike and I knew that I’d shattered the ankle. I went to the hospital and I was told which guy I needed to reconstruct my ankle by five people. So, when I went there, I asked for him and I got him.
The next day I woke up with a cage on my leg, which I knew I was going to have, but that night I’d pleaded with him not to put it on because I knew that I may have been forced to wear it for six months. He told me that I’d have it on for a week because he couldn’t operate on the ankle until the swelling had gone down.
So, he operated again and did a great reconstruction job. Every surgeon I’ve seen said what he did with my ankle was fantastic because it was very close to being fused. That would have been the end of my career, I can tell you that. I know another rider, Jules Cluzel, had his fused, but he’s in World Supersport. We have 19 Grand Prixs, so it’s a little bit different of a situation. In MotoGP, it would have been game over, for sure. I was very lucky that I never had it fused.
There were rumours that you might not be able to ride again, or at best face 12 months out of action. However, you made it back in time for the season opener and even the Sepang Test. Can you talk to me about your rehabilitation and training regime?
I stayed in hospital for another nine days before flying home to the Isle of Man and getting to work. In those months, from November to the end of January when I went to the first test, I did absolutely everything possible, except see physios constantly. Because, I didn’t need to. I knew what I needed to do myself. I was doing the exercises, I was icing it, I was getting massages, I was putting cream on it. Whatever I could do. I went in a hyperbaric chamber the first week I was at home and then I flew to California for my rehabilitation.
The strange thing was that I couldn’t walk. I was told not to walk for six weeks towards the end of December. I tried to start walking, but it wasn’t possible. Then, at the start of January I tried walking again. I walked for four or five days in my boot, and then I was unable to walk. The pain was just incredible. It was at that time I thought that it wasn’t going to happen, it was just impossible. I couldn’t move my ankle, well I could move it, I just couldn’t walk on it. I could bend it up and down. It was probably at 40% of the movement that I usually have. I couldn’t move it side-to-side, yet. All of this was at the beginning of January. The test was at the end of January, only three weeks away.
I phoned Lucio (Cecchinello) and I said ‘I can’t walk, it’s not looking good’. In the middle week I suddenly made a massive jump forward. I don’t know why, I have no idea how because nothing really changed. I left no stone unturned with my rehabilitation. At no point did I think that I wasn’t going to ride the bike, until that week where I thought it was going to very difficult. Then the third week I made the improvement, and then I went to the test.
It was a really strange time because I was worried in that week that I wouldn’t be able to walk, never mind ride a bike. I can’t walk very well even now. I walk with a lot of pain and a limp at times. But it depends on the day. One day I’m not too bad and the next it’s killing me, so the quality of life with my ankle is still not great but I was so determined to be able to race.
I know that I still love the sport as much as I always have because of what I was willing to go through to ride. I honestly don’t think there would be any other rider who would do what I did, or the amount of work that I put in to be able to ride. I think they would have taken a year off, taken some races off or something. Especially with the first test. But I knew how important that test was – because I missed the other two – so it was a situation where I just had to do it and I tried my best, and look at the outcome.
Given the tough winter and then the cycling incident which caused further problems, overall, how do you feel the season has gone so far? You’ve got the two podiums and sit ninth in the championship.
It should be going better than ninth! I should be sitting fifth in the championship. Last week I lost points because a bike stopped in front of me. I crashed out of two podiums, which is my own fault completely [holds hands up]. Then, I had a couple of average results, two eighth places or something like that. The championship is so close now, it’s so important to be in the top five. The thing is, I’m a top five rider every week, it’s just making it happen. I wish I could make it happen every week and I think I can.
Hopefully, from now to the end of the season I will have a good run and start to make up some places in the championship. I don’t think the championship reflects my speed, but I haven’t had a great feeling with the bike this year, at all. It seems to be improving a little bit so I’m optimistic. I will keep working with Honda and my team, who are both doing a great job, and we’ll see where it goes.
Can you tell me a little about the cycling incident?
The cycling injury was just ridiculous. I wasn’t even on my bike. I was off my bike! I fell over in my shoe and broke the top of my tibia. But that being said, I never even think about it. It doesn’t matter, not when you consider what I went through at the end of last year.
The amount of blood they pulled off my knee, I then went and stood on the podium at the Sachsenring. I didn’t even think about it, honestly. The whole weekend, everyone was making a bigger deal about it than I was. I just thought, well, I’ve hurt my knee, and that’s it.
You mention the podium in Germany. You also finished on the podium in Qatar. Both of those races were your first back from injury. That’s quite astonishing. What do you put this down to? Is there more motivation and adrenaline running through your body to overcome the pain?
I just don’t know. The thing is, I’ve always been the same. Maybe I should get injured every week [laughs]! It would a pain in the arse, but I’d keep getting better results! I don’t know what it is, honestly.
You mentioned that you’ve been struggling with the feeling of the bike. We all know the Honda is a difficult bike. Compared to last season’s bike, in what area has it become a little difficult for you?
The Honda is a great bike to ride when you feel good with it, but right now I don’t have a good feeling with the front, or at least not as good as last year. Well, it’s not that my feeling with the front isn’t good, its just that its not as good as last year and the year before that, and the year before that. They were all the same. This year just feels different.
Maybe it just takes me more time to adapt or maybe I can just understand the bike a lot more than the others. I just don’t know, that’s just my feeling at the moment. I still feel I’m riding well and I’m able to push. I’m doing good lap times compared to last year. We’re doing a good job but its just not as easy as the other years in that sense, and the championship is getting tighter and tighter.
Marc Marquez is running away with it this year. Is there a danger that, as he gets even more comfortable on the Honda, this could become a one-man championship?
It’s not a worry for me because, at the end of the day, you have to accept when someone is talented and fast. A lot of riders in the championship can’t admit that and they can’t get their head around it. It doesn’t mean I’m beaten. It means that I think he is beatable but at the moment he is showing why he has won multiple titles and he is riding very, very well.
He is obviously beatable because he has been beaten before and that’s why you always keep going back and trying. Not just to beat him, but to beat all the other riders on the grid. I enjoy that. Going into the weekend, not knowing what’s going to happen. That’s why we keep coming!
It’s the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend. It’s always an unpredictable race, but you’ve been on pole and the podium before. What do you think your chances are this weekend? Can you challenge for the win?
You know, again, it’s the exact reason why we keep coming back. I’ve no idea where I’ll finish this weekend. But I’m aiming to win, obviously. I’m aiming for the podium. I’m aiming to do the best job I can and give 100% – that’s all I can do. I will always give 100%.
I love racing at the British Grand Prix, it’s a great event. The crowd get behind me. It’s a difficult weekend for me because being the only British rider, you’re always busy, and it’s difficult thing to manage. But I love going to Silverstone, and I love trying my best at my home Grand Prix. Everybody wants to race in their home country, and try to put on a show and do a good job. I feel like I’m in a good place to do that.
There is an on-going argument online whether the British Grand Prix should be at Silverstone or Donington Park. Which one, as a rider, do you prefer racing at, and where do you believe the race should be held?
Silverstone, as we all know, is the home of motorsport in the UK. I’ve had some great results there, I like riding there, but I don’t necessarily like the track. That’s just my opinion as a motorbike racer. I love undulation in tracks so I would love to race at Donington. Where I would love to be? I don’t really care as long as there is a British GP, so I’m going to hang on the fence with that one as well!
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