Crutchlow: "I'm a lot more confident this year"

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider discusses his start to the 2012 MotoGP™ World Championship after an impressive opening race in Qatar, his expectations for the season and his thoughts on the future.

How are you feeling after the race in Qatar?
"Good! It was nice to finish really and get the first one out of the way. I don’t want to think that just because I finished fourth it means suddenly we're near the front. There's a long way to go and you never know, the next race you could finish tenth. I'm not saying it's close, because obviously there's a big gap from me and Dovi (Andrea Dovizioso) to the guys behind but things can change so quickly. We could easily be back in that battle or we could easily be a bit nearer to the front battle, so you don’t know. I just think it's a nice way to start the year, that's the way I look at it."

What was the reaction like back at home?
"It was good. I had some good press and people were happy to see it. You always have people who are not very happy to see it obviously, like fans of other riders, which I fully appreciate because it's like you supporting Liverpool, which is rubbish, and me supporting someone else, like Blackburn! Some people like to see me at the front which is nice. I had something like 2,500 messages on my Twitter. I couldn’t scan them all but most of them said well done, which is nice. Better than them saying it's rubbish."

Even though winter testing went so well for you, a lot of people were still surprised by your performance in Qatar. Were you?
"After the testing I think I expected to be in the top six but I didn’t expect that Dovi and I would be so far ahead of that group behind but I also never expected that we'd be so far behind the front three. But it's a good way to start the year. We're not on factory equipment and the only bikes that beat me in the race were factory equipment. But even if I was on factory equipment would I beat the guys in front? No, probably not. Not at the first race of the year, so I'll just chip away. I think we expected to be stronger than what we were last year but to finish fourth in a solid ride at the first round was good, but I don’t know if it was to be expected. I expected to do better than what I did last year but that's it."

Looking at your lap times it seems you could have been fighting up there if you'd have gone past Dovi earlier.
"I made a mistake in the race no doubt. I got a bad start and then I should have passed Dovi earlier. If I had passed him on lap three when I caught him I probably could have got across to the other guys. But with the new Bridgestone tyres if you really hammer them for a lap you won't last the race and I was panicking more that if I hammered the tyres for a lap and didn’t finish the race or got caught at the end, I'd be in a worse situation than I would have been if I could still go fast at the end of the race. We had the third fastest lap on the last couple of laps and the guys that were leading the race weren’t going that much faster than I was at the end of the race. So, I should have just gone earlier and got across with them, but I think if I had a decent start and went with them three I would have been a lot closer to them at the front. I still don’t think I would have been on the podium so it doesn’t matter if I finish fourth and really close to them, or fourth far behind them, I was happy enough anyway."

Do you think the M1 package has stepped up for the 1000s?
"What you have to consider for Dovi and I is that we're not on the same bike as Jorge and Ben. I really hope it doesn’t happen – it happened last year and normally happens every year to be honest – that Qatar and the tests are the closest we ever are to the factory team, with machinery. Because they have an endless budget and can keep developing. We all seem to start the year with very similar stuff. They're already a little bit ahead of us, which is fair enough as they are the factory team but I hope that they don’t keep developing and we don’t get it, because then the gap just gets bigger and bigger and we have to ride harder and harder."

Do you think then that's its important for you to get results in the first few races while the machinery is more equal?
"I think so but not many people understand that that's what sometimes happens – that the gap gets a little bit bigger because of that. But the people in the know, know it. There's nothing really you can do about it."

What do you think has contributed to your great start this year?
"I think that coming into this year I was more confident. I had a good race at the last race last year and the 1000cc suits me a little bit better, and I have a little bit more experience with the tyres sliding around than maybe the other guys do. I also think it's my second year, I want to be in MotoGP next year and my contract is up at the end of this year. I feel that I'm riding better because of that as well. I'd like to not necessarily prove people wrong, but I'd like to show what I can do if I really need to as well. There's a lot at stake for this year so I think all in all with everything put together – I had a good off-season – that's why we're going a little bit quicker this year. But if we were on 800s I still think I'd be nearer the front than what I was last year. Anyway, yes, 1000s seem to be a little bit better."

Did you step up your training over winter for the 1000s?
"I've always trained hard. I like cycling, that's a big passion of mine but it's just in everything, I think that I've not got rid of stuff in my life, but concentrated more on racing the bike and not complaining about it. I've got what I've got and that's it and I will ride what I've got as hard as I can ride it. There's no point saying 'I want this, I need that', you've just got to do the best job you can on what you've got and I took that attitude in my life as well, not just for racing a motorcycle. I'm a lot more calm this year. I think last year was a tough year because I started the year so well, especially the second and third races. And then obviously I crashed and had a few bad races, and then in the middle of the year it was just a disaster. So I think I needed to regroup myself and get my confidence back as well because I know that when I'm at the top of my game, when I won World SuperSport, was winning World Superbike races and was the fastest guy out there, I felt it was all about confidence and I never had it at the end of last year and I've never had that so it was a big wake up call for me. Not confidence in a cocky or arrogant way, just confidence as in knowing that I can do it and I feel that I've got that back again now. Not to say it went away, I just think I needed a little bit of time. And maybe I needed that result at Valencia to know that it's still there, I'm not far away. Then obviously we tested the 1000cc after and I tested well on the 1000 as well. I think we just need to keep building on what we've started this year. I think this year with a little bit of a different attitude there's no reason why we can't be challenging up near the front for a lot of the year."

Do you think podiums are possible this year?
"Yes, I'd like to think so. Where and when I don’t know but I've always said that my aim or goal is to be at the front of the guys on privateer bikes and if I can beat some factory guys now and again I'll be very happy. You cant do much more than that. Is it possible to beat some of the factory guys now and again? Yes I think it is but you have to just do the best on what you've got and that's what I'm looking at doing. Andrea finished third overall last year and there were only two guys that beat him, which are the two best guys in the world who have won the title last year and the year before, so being anywhere near Andrea is… I'm not saying I'm happy with that, obviously if Andrea's tenth I don’t want to be ninth or eleventh, but I think with his calibre of how good he is, I'm happy to be around near that sort of area."

Do you see Dovi, as your team-mate and potential rival for a 2013 seat with Tech 3, as the first guy to beat?
"No, not at all. People will obviously think that way but if I'm there or there about I'm not expecting to beat Andrea, that's the thing for me. As I said he finished third last year in the world title, I finished a lot further down. He's won a MotoGP race and had many podiums but at the end of the day, it's not just me out of contract this year, there's a lot of riders out of contract, nearly every single one of them. So I've just got to do the best job I can and hopefully something will come. It's a long way off yet and I'm just concentrating on doing my job which is to finish as high as I can finish."

Maybe there's even a possibility for you to go into the factory team?
"Well Yamaha have got two fantastic riders there and in all honesty, if you ask me now, I can't see them changing. So I'm not necessarily just looking at that, I'm just looking at doing what I can do now and proving to people that I'm fast enough and that this year I'll be consistent and try my best. At the minute I think I've done that because last year at this point in the season I'd crashed about seven times with testing and stuff, but this year I've crashed once so far since Valencia. So I obviously feel more comfortable and more confident. I'm happy with the team, the team have done a great job over the winter and it's good that I've got the second year with them. This is the first team that I've been with for six years where I've stayed with the same team twice. So it's a little bit of continuity and the same bike essentially, a Yamaha MotoGP bike."

It must be good to be going back to Jerez where you tested so well while you have the momentum from Qatar?
"Jerez is a hard track, it's a very difficult track for me because I've only been there twice, I raced there last year and I tested there earlier on in the year. Testing obviously went okay but it's a little different, I think the race will be tougher than the test was. It's about knowing the tracks well and when those boys have been there for 10 years it's difficult. I think Estoril will be a good one for me, I liked that circuit when I was there last year. Not to say I didn’t like Jerez particularly but it wasn’t my best track. I felt Estoril was good and I think we'll be a little bit closer at Estoril than we will in Jerez, but you never know what's going to happen. People ask how do you plan the race but you can't plan anything in motorcycle racing because it never goes the way that you planned it. So I'll just do my best at both races and see how we go from there."

How are you dealing with the weight of British expectation?
"The British crowd are great, I've always said, when I won in World SuperSport and World Superbike in Britain, the crowd are phenomenal and they always back you but the problem is that sometimes they're the first ones to jump on you if you don’t do very well, which is difficult. But the thing is we don’t have the Spanish and Italian breed of winning, how much they're winning Grands Prix. But that's only because we're not brought up on Grand Prix bikes. But when it comes it will be good because it's been a long time waiting with Jeremy [McWilliams] being the last one and that was in 2000. I'm not saying that I'm gonna get on the podium but I hope so and I hope it for the British fans as much as myself as well."

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