The Gran Premio Animoca Brands de Aragón will see three-time MotoGP™ race winner Cal Crutchlow return to the premier class grid for the second year in a row, as the British star replaces the recently retired Andrea Dovizioso in the WithU RNF Yamaha MotoGP™ Team ranks.
The Yamaha Test Rider competed in four Grands Prix last season when filling in for both Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) at the Styrian, Austrian, British and Aragon GPs for the Iwata factory, finishing with a best of P16 in Aragon.
However, this time around will be a little different to last year. Crutchlow came to the 2021 Styrian GP off the back of not riding the YZR-M1 since the Qatar Test – six months prior. Speaking on the MotoGP™ Last on the Brakes Podcast recently, Crutchlow explained that he’s very much looking forward to coming back, but also how returning to racing is a whole different ball game to testing.
“I always look forward to riding the motorcycle. I retired two years ago now but it was the perfect way for me to retire and take a test riding role that I can still ride around at a good pace, be able to try help Yamaha with regards to comments, feedback and my feeling on the M1 to try and bring the bike forward as best as possible for the factory riders,” said Crutchlow.
“But coming back and racing is not easy. There’s nothing like racing. You can test all you want and you know, feel things, be at a good pace, at a good race pace, but the way the guys are going this year… the field is so strong. But we have no expectations, I’ll just do my job as best as possible which is good for Yamaha still because we can give information on the current bike as it’ll be the bike of Andrea’s and riding with the WithU RNF racing team that I rode a couple of races for last year.
“I know the staff, I know the people there, I worked with Wilco Zeelenberg back in 2009 when I won my WorldSSP Championship so I’ve got a long history with a lot of the mechanics even there too. I’m looking forward to getting back into it, six races… I think it’s six races in eight weeks, and I have two tests in those eight weeks. It’s going to be a busy period, I went from being the least busy person to probably being the busiest person, but yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Seeing a lot of friends in the paddock, as I said I’ve been actively riding a little bit of late so I won’t come into it as bad as last year.”
Crutchlow humorously recalls the difficulties he faced when heading out on track for the first time at the Red Bull Ring last year, which included nearly stalling, crashing into the pit wall and having a head rush.
“I remember last year when I did come to Austria, I hadn’t ridden the bike in just under six months. I rode it at the Qatar Test and didn’t ride again until that Austria test, and I jumped on the bike and I nearly stalled the bike for a start, I nearly hit the pit wall, wobbled off down the pitlane and thought ‘I don’t remember it being that difficult’.
“And I came out of pitlane and accelerated and had a massive head rush because of the G-forces and the speed, I thought ‘I hope this goes away’ but within a lap I was ok. I wasn’t really up to speed but hopefully this year it will be a little bit different and I’m looking forward to it.”
Aragon, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Malaysia and Valencia, plus a couple of tests. It really will be a busy period for Crutchlow, but he’s looking forward to the challenge that begins this weekend in Spain.