Photography by Gold & Goose
A day after crashing out of his final MotoGP on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain, Cal Crutchlow was starting over again. After three years on the satellite Yamaha team, the Brit signed a deal with Ducati Corse earlier in the year to make the move to its thus far unpopular Desmosedici MotoGP bike.
Today was show time with Crutchlow spinning his first laps on the Ducati with his crew chief from his Tech 3 team Daniele Romagnoli by his side.
And he did quite well, thank you very much, ending the first of three days of testing with the sixth best time (the two factory Hondas of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa didn’t test today) – and ending up just .111 of a second behind his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian who has spend the entire season the Marlboro Ducati. Crutchlow was .797 of a second off Jorge Lorenzo’s best lap today.
Crutchlow said the initial feeling he got from the Ducati was much different from the Yamaha he’s spend the last three years on.
“First feeling is different,” Crutchlow said. “I’ve ridden for a different manufacturer of motorcycle for three years now so even when they changed from 800 to a 1000 that bike felt the same so I only know that bike. But now it’s learning something completely different to what I’m used to. But it will take time for sure. You can’t just expect to jump on something you’ve never ridden on and be completely comfortable and be happy on it. But, yeah, they’re some good positive points about the bike and I’ve given them the feedback about that.
“We’re trying not to compare the two bikes too much because we’re not trying to build another manufacturer. I’m riding for Ducati and I think there are some very, very positive points about the bike. But there are also some areas to improve.”
When questioned as to what it was that felt right about the bike, Crutchlow said, “For me it obviously always compares down to the rider’s riding style. But the bike in the straight line braking is very, very stable very good. The acceleration of the bike is working well. Also the gearbox is a lot different to what I’ve been used to. I made a small complaint saying that the bike when I change gear makes a sudden burst of movement like surging me forward and they said no that’s a seamless shift gearbox – so that’s good. It wasn’t a complaint. It was just that I didn’t know it was correct. There’s some very, very good positive points of the Ducati. And yes as we all know and, as I said, some negative points and we have to work on those together as a team.
“All I can do is give the information back from what I’m used to and how I believe it should be. I believe that over the next two days we can also give them some more positive feedback or feedback they can use.”
So given what he’s heard about the bike from those who have ridden it before him, was it better or worse than what he expected.
“I didn’t think that it was better or worse,” he said. “I expected it to be different and it was different. I have no comment on whether it was better or worse. I just had to ride the bike and learn it. It’s not easy to finish a race yesterday, or not finish as the case was, but on something completely different and jump on a Ducati which was completely alien to me. The clutch levers felt different, the brake levers felt different, you know everything. Even they’re in same place and then the same manufacturer everything felt different. It’s really, really an alien thing like a strange feeling to jump on a different bike. Not jumping on the Ducati… I just mean jumping on a different bike.
“So we have to continue to ride and do a good amount of laps tomorrow. I think we didn’t want to ride all afternoon today. I think that for two and half days we have enough stuff to do. Today was about familiarizing ourselves with the guys in the garage and also the bike. Obviously, there’s a different dash, there’s a different place where the signal is from, there’s so many things to look at. It’s not just about riding a bike and saying this is better or that’s better. Every time I come in I miss the pit limiter. You know there’s so many different things you have to get used to.”
One thing Crutchlow said he did do on his first day was enjoy himself.
“That’s one of the main things,” he said. “You know, as you guys know I’ve always said a happy rider is a fast rider. It was great, a nice new challenge. It’s nice to be here in Ducati and work with the guys. There’s a lot of stuff, a lot of names to get used to and work out a lot of what people’s jobs are, but it’s nice they all listen and they’re all interested to see my reaction of the bike as well and sure over the next two days it will get better and have some more fun.”
By the end of his tenure with Ducati, Valentino Rossi was saying that he thought the bike was impossible. Did Crutchlow concur?
“In my first laps I just did some wheelies and rode around so I enjoyed myself. You know I believe anything is possible. It’s not impossible at all for sure. We’ve seen it’s not impossible. So I have big motivation and good self-belief so there’s no reason we can’t make it work in the end.”