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Cal Crutchlow talks exclusively to motogp.com about testing and how the new technical regulations will level the playing field in 2016.
Cal Crutchlow finished the 2015 MotoGP™ season in eighth overall with 125 points, with the British rider’s best result his third place in Argentina. For 2016 Crutchlow is staying with the LCR Honda Team and motogp.com caught up with him ahead of the Phillip Island test:
Cal, you normally spend your off season in California, but this year you stayed home at the Isle of Man, why the change and what difference has it made?
“The change was just because I decided to stay on the Isle of Man for the winter as I thought it was time to toughen up a little more(laughs)! I normally come back here in February anyway when it is freezing cold then as well, but I thought I would do the extra couple of months. We had 71 consecutive days of rain at one point so it certainly makes you toughen up having to train in that. All I do is cycle so I’ve just been hit by the wind and the rain for the last two or three months, but it has been good fun and I enjoy being out in the air. I had one week where I went to our holiday home in Italy, in January. The rest of the time has been spent here, but I will definitely be going back to California to do my winter training next year(laughs)!”
How happy were you with how the 2015 season went?
“The 2015 season was okay, it wasn't spectacular. It wasn't my best season ever, but it also wasn’t my worse season ever. I sort of thought 2015 was similar to my first year in MotoGP, it was more of a learning year. It was ever difficult to learn to ride the Honda at the time, but I feel I have got used to that now. The team were great, Honda worked with me very well. The Ducati year was just a year in-between and I think this year will hopefully be a better year than last year. I look forward to it.”
Will the new technical regulations make a big difference this year?
“They have definitely made a huge difference to the bikes as everyone was used to their own system. I think Ducati have an advantage as they were the ones using Magneti Marelli before and I think maybe Yamaha too. We as Honda are suffering more with the electronics at the moment, but I believe they can get a hold on it. I really do, it just takes time. Honda had their own complete system so it is taking a lot longer to transfer everything over, but I also think that when some of the manufacturers were agreeing to some of the things that were put in place they knew Honda would take a bit more time. Which is good, it is all part of it, part of the competition, I enjoy it! I enjoy the fact there are rivalries not only between the riders, but between the factories. That is the way it should be. I think that what they have done with the electronics is good. Yes, it is a level playing field in the end if you get those numbers right. Its if your team and obviously more the manufacturer can work out the electronics. If we can put the numbers in right and work it out to our manufacturers advantage, it will be similar for all. What we are seeing at the moment is maybe one or two manufacturers having an advantage over the others because they already know what to put in. Whether that is because they worked with the electronics manufacturer before or whatever, they have some knowledge of it, where I don't believe there are many people that were working with the old Honda system that do. I think it really will bring about a level playing field when everyone works it all out, and I look forward to that because I think it will bring some opportunity for some guys to be on the podium that will be nice to see, something different.
“The engines at the start of the year between the different manufacturers are quite close and with the electronics being this way now it might allow some of the riders to be more competitive and some of the teams that are working really hard to finish in the top ten or the top six, whatever it may be, I think it may be able to happen.”
You ended the last day at the Sepang Test fourth fastest when everyone was on the hard tyre plus finished in sixth on the combined times, do you think this is good indication of where you can be in 2016?
“I don’t know. I have finished fifth in the championship before so there is no reason why I can’t do it again. It gets more difficult year after year, everyone seems to get faster! Now we have some great young talent in MotoGP as well, like Maverick (Viñales), who are able to be very fast. In a way it will be more difficult to be in the top five, but I am up for it. I have had a good winter at home, trying work out how to go faster. Not riding-wise, the way things are done with the team is that I work closely with them on the things we need to improve over the winter. That is what it is all about, it's not just looking at the bike, it's looking at yourself. It is looking where everybody can improve not just me, or the manufacturer, or the team. There is no reason why we can’t be up there. Of course we know it is going to be difficult to challenge for a world title, that goes without saying and I am realistic. This year wouldn't be the year anyway, but that doesn't mean I won’t try every week. It doesn't mean I don't believe that we can be up there in the Championship. Going on some of the results last year I would say no, but going on some of the others, I would say it is possible. We will see, I think it is a lot more open this year as the Ducatis will be very strong and more consistent. Honda have some work to do but they will definitely come out fighting by Qatar hopefully. Yamaha are always there, it is going to be an interesting year for the fans that watch it on TV, or coming to the races. It is going to be a good year to watch MotoGP!”
What updates were you testing for HRC at the Sepang test?
“I saw an interview that said I had been testing swingarms, chassis, exhausts the lot! That wasn't the case. I tested the new engine and it wasn't the engine that Marc and Dani were on. I was very privileged for Honda to come on the last day and ask me to help out, which wasn't in the plan at all, they also did it to Tito (Rabat). That shows how much they really want to push and develop as Tito is not going to be a guy who can help so much at the moment as he is adapting, but they still wanted the information. I was in a great position to give them information because I rode last year’s bike all of last season, and then on the first two days of the test. Then on the last day I rode with the new engine, well it was sort of the middle engine. Not the latest spec, but the one they had at the Valencia and Jerez tests. So I was able to give them some feedback and we tested some chassis settings but no new parts apart from the engine. It’s very valuable information for Honda, as all of their riders have different riding styles and they need to look at all of these styles to work out which is the best way to go. We know Marc (Marquez) has been the fastest guy over the last few years, but maybe his riding style isn't the best for developing bikes, maybe Dani’s (Pedrosa) is. They listen to everybody and its great that they put the trust in the satellite riders to help and we give them the best information we can. I know that Honda listen to what we say and its good they have another source of information.”
Whats the plan for Phillip Island test, more work for the factory or focus on your own program?
“We are not too sure yet. I would like to be able to see what we can test, but I would say that the engine will be the priority along with the electronics. We need to make the electronics work with the engine. Even with last year’s engine the new electronics were not working so well. So I think the priorities will be to evaluate the engine and also try and dial these electronics in as all of us on the Honda were a long way off in Sepang. I think though that we gained some valuable information and they will have done their research since then, but they will be our two top priorities. Whether I will be on last year’s engine, the middle engine of this year's engine I am not too sure at the moment, but we have enough things to test at Phillip Island. There is some stuff we didn't even get to test last year, plus we haven't even touched our chassis or anything else yet as Honda haven't changed that yet, as it's not a priority at the moment. That is why I think the potential of the Honda is a lot more, because if you look at what we have actually focused on, when we can bring it all together as one and also make a change a little into the season with regard to the swingarm or chassis or something else, then the combination could work really well. Last year’s chassis is also quite good at the moment as well, so we are working as a team and with Honda on a daily basis and hopefully everything will go to plan. We just have to be patient, patience at the moment is one of the main things. We know that a lot of the other bikes around us are quite ready compared to us. That’s why I say, while we have a long way to go at the moment, the potential is massive.”
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#relaxing in this wonderful country! Today relaxing again and tomorrow off to @phillipisland Un peu de repos aujourd'hui avant de partir pour Phillip Island demain!!:)
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