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Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) produced an outstanding injury comeback ride at the VisitQatar Grand Prix to earn a heroic podium, finishing 0.320 off the win in third behind race winner Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) and runner-up Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
The Briton, who suffered a badly broken ankle and lower leg at Phillip Island, endured a tough winter being unable to walk. And having missed out on the first two preseason tests in Valencia and Jerez before the turn of the year, Crutchlow started 2019 on the back foot at the Sepang and Qatar Tests. However, a P6 in qualifying converted into a 17th career Grand Prix podium in Sunday’s race made Crutchlow the hero of the opening night in Qatar.
Crutchlow "surprised" to be on the podium
“I am surprised obviously because after this morning’s warm up I didn’t think I could fight for the top six, let alone the podium,” began Crutchlow, reflecting upon his P3. “But once I got going in the race I was able to compete and be competitive. My whole LCR Honda Castrol team did a great job, we never gave up after a bad winter because we didn’t know the direction we were going in with the bike, because we never managed to test at the end of last year.
“But as you say we never gave up, we kept working hard even throughout this whole weekend. This is the only weekend we’ve had two 2019 bikes we’ve been able to work with, so we tried our hardest in the race to be able to… I should have led. I tried my hardest to be able to go to the front to save the front tyre a little bit but then I got beaten up a bit by the Suzukis and Petrucci, so I had to play my cards and my cards were in some parts of the track I was strong, like sector three. But yeah it’s a nice surprise to be on the podium for sure after lying in the bed in Australia.”
This was the first time the number 35 rider had done anywhere close to race distance during winter, and Qatar being his first race since he claimed a podium at the 2018 Japanese GP, along with the ankle injury, was Crutchlow feeling the fitness effects during the opening race of 2019?
“No, I felt good. And over the weekend we’ve had some problems, a few problems with my arms. You know me I don’t bother going to the gym, I like to ride my bicycle. My physicality on the bike, my arms were a bit sore over the weekend, but in the race I felt good. I felt really really good.
Round 1: MotoGP™ VisitQatar Grand Prix
“As I said earlier, I have a lot of people to thank to be able to race again to be honest. My surgeon Matthias Russ in Australia and the surgeon that looks after me in the Isle of Man Ross Barker, and the physiotherapists and the team around me that has made it possible to come back and race because at one point, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. Even as late as December, in late December.
“So to come back into Qatar and for people at home to be treated to fantastic MotoGP race again, you know it’s great to be back in the thick of it and great to be back on the podium.”
But it wasn’t a pain-free race for the three-time Grand Prix race winner:
“I have no idea. But I’m going to give them the footpeg back because it’s still in my arse! Honestly, someone hit me so hard, that I had a numb cheek for about 15 laps of the race. I don’t know how long it was but it was so sore and now I cant feel it. So I’ll have to get it massaged out later.”
And next up for Crutchlow is Argentina. Cast your mind back 12 months ago and it was the LCR Honda rider who took victory there in 2018, so how is Crutchlow feeling ahead of a return to Termas de Rio Hondo?
Crutchlow is back on track
“Everyone sees you as the favourite because you won there the year before. We know the circumstances were strange last year in regards to Marc (Marquez). Marc would have won last year, I know that. But he didn’t, he started to ride around the grid backwards, so you never know what can happen in MotoGP. I’ll go with a fresh open mind and do battle again and rack up some more points. But obviously we go to every race to win. Not just Argentina or any other. I’ll do the best job I can and so will my team.”
Later in the press conference, Crutchlow admitted that “not being able to walk” was one of the hardest things about his injury during the winter. Not only is he walking again, but he’s finishing on a MotoGP™ podium once more. Will history repeat itself for the British rider in Argentina in a couple of weeks’ time?
Post-race Press Conference in full: VisitQatar Grand Prix
2 years ago