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Cal Crutchlow couldn’t resist a cheeky swipe at the young guns of MotoGP ahead of his return to race action at the Aragon Grand Prix this weekend.
Crutchlow, Britain’s most successful top tier rider since Barry Sheene, has come out of race retirement again to replace Andrea Dovizioso in the RNF Yamaha team for the final rounds of the season. As a Yamaha test and reserve rider, the 36-year-old was the obvious choice to step in for fellow veteran Dovizioso, who decided to retire mid-season after a year of struggle.
Crutchlow prides himself on being an old-school rider who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. It’s a far cry from the current generation of polished and social media savvy riders.
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“Am I supposed to tweet today it’s “race week” and Instagram a pic on the plane Wednesday? Forgot what you have to do when you’re one of the sheep!!! Been so long since catching up with the herd,” he tweeted at the start of the week.
“There’s a bit of controversy over that [tweet],” he says at the start of his interview with Daily Star Sport. “I was just winding them up because they all follow each other, don’t they.
“One will make a social media post saying the sky is blue and everyone else will do the same 10 minutes later. It was just to wind them all up.”
Needless to say, following the herd has never been Crutchlow’s style.
“No, because at the end of the day, you have to be yourself, not follow everyone else,” he adds. “I get why they do it but it’s definitely not me, that’s for sure.”
Following the retirement of the sport’s GOAT, Valentino Rossi, and amid Marc Marquez’s struggles with injury (the Spaniard also makes his latest comeback this weekend), MotoGP has recently lacked a rider who truly transcends the sport.
So does Crutchlow feel there is a shortage of personality on the grid?
“I wouldn’t say there’s a lack of personalities because there’s some great characters on the grid,” he explains. “The problem is, they’re all quite robotic with regards to… As I said they all sort of follow each other.
“I don’t think it has lost its appeal. I just think it’s going to a different generation now with the social media side of things. It’s a completely different generation of people they’re trying to attract.
“The old-school riders, we were more natural. They say it how it is but that’s not the way it goes nowadays. But I’m happy to go with the times.”
He then adds with a smirk: “That’s why I put the tweet out, to make sure I’m back with the times.”
Given the social media scrutiny top sportspeople are subjected to these days, Crutchlow understands why young riders are more inclined to play it safe with their public comments.
“I agree with it,” he says. “What we used to get away with saying and doing… I think we got away with a lot compared to what nowadays people would, as we see for people in any sport now.
“It’s scrutinised a lot more, isn’t it. I don’t think any way is right or wrong, the way we used to do it or the way it is now. It’s a sign of times changing and I think it’s positive as well because we’re reaching a wide audience. That’s a good thing.”
MotoGP audiences, on the whole, have dwindled this season while its own version of F1’s Drive to Survive series proved to be a flop. So the sport is trying something different from the F1 playbook, sprint races, which will start next year in a bid to increase interest.
The announcement wasn’t positively received by all riders and fans, but Crutchlow, who will have returned to his role of armchair fan in 2023, is all for it.
“I think it’s cool. It’s cool because I’m sat on the sofa!”, he laughs. “It is good for the show. As I said, times are changing and that’s it. I think they’ve made the decision for the show, for the racing.
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“Why not? I think it will bring a bit more spark. People complain about the racing, complain about the show, complain about this, that and the other. But when they make a change, they also complain about that too. You can’t win. Some riders are going to like it, some riders are not. Some fans are going to like, some fans are not.
“At the end of the day, the organisation [Dorna] have made a decision and that’s it. Go forward. I remember in ’16, ’17, ’18, the show was amazing. At Assen one time there were 120 passes in one race! Now, yes, you’re struggling a little bit [to overtake], but it’s because everybody is on the limit. It’s not necessarily the bikes or the tyres, it’s the limit.
“People are saying it’s going through a stage of being difficult to pass, but that will come back at some point, it’s just the way it is in the moment.
“But we still see some great races, some great talents, records being broken and we see a winner at the end of the weekend. It will get better. Sometimes you have a year where the racing is not as good, but there’s still a champion, people still watch it and people still enjoy it.
“Next year is going to be fun again with the sprints races as well.”
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