It may not have been the ‘corporate image’ manufacturers wanted, but Cal Crutchlow has no regrets for speaking his mind throughout his MotoGP career.
While the Englishman admits it got him into trouble at times and was perceived as arrogance by some, he always felt he shared a close connection to people outside of the paddock.
“At the end of the day, they are no different to me,” Crutchlow said. “Whereas a lot of riders think they are above others because they are in a privileged position.”
The 35-year-old has retired from full-time competition after ten seasons in the premier-class, where he claimed 19 podiums and three (satellite) race wins.
In a message to those that try to stifle personality and shackle MotoGP riders to corporate-speak, Crutchlow is adamant that straight-talking and wearing his heart on his sleeve ‘worked well’ not only for him but also his sponsors.
“I say what I say because it’s what I believe,” Crutchlow explained. “Whether it’s right or wrong to say it, is hard to know! But I’m not going to lie about things, I’m going to say the truth or how I feel.
“But that’s why I’ve always had a good relationship with the media – yes, sure they’ve put me in the shit a few times, but in general at the end of the day I think people respected me for it because I’m different.
“I’m different to the robots that all give the corporate image and the corporate answers that the manufacturers want. I think it’s worked well for me over the years and it’s worked well for my sponsors as well.
“I’ve kept the same sponsors for so many years, I’ve been with Monster for the most amount of years of any athlete they’ve had.
“I believe that’s because of my personality. I’m closer to – people look at us as heroes or something, that we’re actually not. We’re just good at our job. Like other people are good at their jobs.
“I think that’s why I’ve had a good connection with people that are not involved in racing [paddock] as well, because at the end of the day they are no different to me. Whereas, as we know, a lot of riders think they are above others because they are in a privileged position.
“But at the end of the day I’ll always say what I feel and wear my heart on my sleeve. Whether some people take it as arrogance or whatever that’s fine by me. I can still sleep at night. But I believe people like me because of it.”
While Crutchlow will remain involved in MotoGP through his new role as a Factory Yamaha test rider, it is clear that his priorities in life have changed.
“My main thing is that I want to take Willow [daughter] to school. I’ve already tried to plan with Yamaha that I’m not testing when she goes to school for the first time,” he said. “That’s a big thing for me and I believe, honestly speaking, I stopped at the right time.
“What I won’t miss, and why I took my decision, was things like the travelling and the political nature of racing. I’ve dealt with it for a long time, I think I’ve done a good job managing it as best as possible, but you can’t manage what goes on between the manufacturers, the rules etc.
“I won’t miss that part of it. But maybe I just don’t like to stick to the rules!
“I’ll definitely miss competing and my friends in the paddock, obviously Jack [Miller] and Sammy [Lowes]. We’re really, really close friends.
“I’m passing the baton to Jack on the straight-talking side and to Sammy on the hard [riding when injured] side. I told him to bite the bullet [at Portimao] and he did. That’s all we could ask.
“I look forward to watching them both but I’ll miss them week in, week out.
“And also my teams. I’ve had three great teams [Tech3, Ducati, LCR] that I’ve worked with. When the whole Tech3 team came to me on the grid it’s always a nice moment, obviously working with Beefy [LCR crew chief] over the years as well and I’ll stay friends with them all.”
The cancellation of the Sepang tests means Crutchlow is now due to make his debut as Yamaha test rider at Qatar in March. Wild-card race appearances are also possible, but yet to be confirmed.