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One year ago, LCR Castrol Honda’s Cal Crutchlow thought his MotoGP™ career might be over. A horror-crash at Turn 1 during Free Practice 2 of the 2018 Australian Grand Prix resulted in a Pilon fracture of his tibia, fibula and talus bone. The subsequent surgery took three and a half hours and, along with reconstruction with artificial bone, required two metal plates and eight screws.
It’s an injury that doctors told him could take up to twelve months to recover from. However, instead of being stood watching from afar one year later, he was stood on the podium having just achieved his best result of 2019 – a quite incredible turnaround.
"I've still got the want and the desire to be able to do it"
The Briton came into the weekend that it’s one the only crashes in his career that has had a lasting effect on him. “Normally, I just get back on and I don’t really care. This one has haunted me for a year,” he said. Incidentally, Turn 1 was actually the place he was able to take the lead of the Australian Grand Prix, during a frantic opening few laps at Phillip Island. Not only did he banish the demons of one year ago, but, in typical Crutchlow style, he was able to use them as motivation.
“We’re over the moon,” said the Honda rider. “The team did a great job building me a bike capable of being on the podium today. I missed a little bit to be able to go with the front two guys, but we think that was the rear tyre because my rear tyre was completely destroyed after doing four or five hard laps behind them.
“What a year it’s been though. To come back after the injury, to sit all winter during the rehabilitation thinking ‘will I ever get to ride again’ and now to stand here on the podium. The funny thing was I’ve never had a crash that I’ve thought about. Normally, I just get back on and I don’t really care. This one has haunted me for a year. I said to Lucy [his wife] before I came here that I was scared, worried and you never know if it will happen again because you’re thinking about. We proved that wrong today. I actually had the surgeon here today that did the operation because he saved my career, honestly.
“The whole LCR Castrol Honda team deserves being here on the podium. We know we got lucky with the second place because Maverick deserved to be on the podium but it’s great to be here with my mate Jack. I managed the situation as best as I could, and I made sure I finished the race.
One of the race defining moments was, without doubt, the ultra-aggressive move Repsol Hond Team’s Marc Marquez placed on Crutchlow as the pair went through Lukey Heights. Marquez, knowing Viñales was capable of escaping at the front, stuffed it up the inside of Crutchlow, but the Brit had no issue with the move.
"That crash has haunted me for the whole year"
“I’m sure he sees things differently to us. I have no problem with the move to be honest, I stayed on the bike and that’s it. We’re racing motorbikes and sometimes there’s contact, sometimes there’s not. We know Marc likes these cut back moves and he did. I never left much room, so I don’t know where he saw the gap! But my glove fell off, my glove was half off. I was trying to get it on for a lap. I was going past Iannone down the straight trying to rub my glove back on.”
Crutchlow turns 34 on Tuesday, October 29th but, despite hinting that 2020 might be his last year in MotoGP™, he shows no signs of fading with age. He’s been on a premier class podium every year since 2012 and is only 15 points away from beating his best Championship total since joining Honda in 2015. He proudly stated that he “still has the want and the desire and the fight” and who would argue against him.
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