MotoGP: Crutchlow – Don’t let my victory fool you

Brno MotoGP winner Cal Crutchlow backs up Dani Pedrosa’s opinion that the 2016 RC213V is extremely difficult to ride

motogp, cal crutchlow, brno, dani pedrosa, honda, rc213v, marc marquez, shuhei nakamoto, hrc
Even though he won the Brno MotoGP decisively, Cal Crutchlow confirms Dani Pedrosa's assertions that the 2016 Honda RC213V has some major issues that need to be addressed before the bike can be considered competitive.Photo courtesy of motogp.com

Marc Marquez has left Brno as the championship leader with a 53-point gap over his nearest competitor, Valentino Rossi. Although some would consider that concrete testimony of the Honda RC213V’s performance, there are others who feel that points advantage is anything but definitive, and nothing that would allow him to take it easy…when taking into account how difficult the 2016 version is to ride.

Yes, it would be easy to characterize that thinking as an exaggeration and over-dramatization, what with Marquez comfortably leading the championship and Cal Crutchlow emphatically winning last weekend's race in Brno. But Crutchlow's comments after qualifying at Brno serve to reinforce the notion that the 2016 RC213V is a "Stoner Syndrome" bike that can only be ridden quickly by one rider by the name of Marc Marquez.

"Marc is in another dimension,” said Crutchlow on Saturday afternoon after the qualifying session in which Marquez had scored the pole by breaking the track record. “Things are very different for Dani (Pedrosa) and me. Just look at where Marc has finished and where we finished.” Crutchlow was only able to get up to tenth position on the grid, just behind Pedrosa in ninth as the next highest finisher on a Honda.

motogp, cal crutchlow, brno, dani pedrosa, honda, rc213v, marc marquez, shuhei nakamoto, hrc
Crutchlow is not one to mince words or give politically correct answers, and he backs up Pedrosa's claims that the 2016 version of the Honda RC213V is extremely difficult to ride.Photo courtesy of motogp.com

Ahead of Pedrosa were two Yamahas, three Ducatis and two Suzukis. A situation far from unique this season: Pedrosa has qualified 15th, 10th and 12th in the last three events, ending the races in 12th, eighth and seventh position...remember, with the second HRC bike.

“Yesterday, when I looked at Marc´s telemetry I saw that he was braking 20 meters later than me,” said Crutchlow, “so I said I would try. Today, the first time I braked two meters later, you've seen what happened.” The LCR Honda rider was referring to the crash suffered in first free practice that ended with his Honda catapulting above the safety fence to end up in the service road. It was the 16th crash in 10 GP weekends for Crutchlow, figures that make him the rider with the most accidents in the championship.

Both Pedrosa and Crutchlow never get tired of saying to anyone within earshot that the 2016 RC213V bikes are very difficult machines to ride. Both riders believe the bikes are just not competitive, and they require the rider to operate on the knife's edge to get competitive speed. That in practice basically translates into trying to recover under braking what they lose during acceleration. This constant struggle manifests itself in various ways among the Honda riders: Marquez, Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Jack Miller and Tito Rabat.

In the case of Marquez, as always, he makes up for what is lacking in the bike. What he terms “risks” are basically “danger” to the other Honda riders, leading to feats of riding skill that are nearly unbelievable. At the same time, having a bike clearly inferior to that of its rivals has made him learn to race for the best possible result instead of all or nothing. Crutchlow manages this situation by showing no fear. But Pedrosa is obviously different. Second only to Rossi in Grand Prix experience, his character is not to take the same risks as Marquez or go beyond his self-preservation instinct as Crutchlow does. An example is that the ninth on the starting grid for Pedrosa in Brno was his best since the Catalunya GP.

motogp, cal crutchlow, brno, dani pedrosa, honda, rc213v, marc marquez, shuhei nakamoto, hrc
All the Honda riders have been forced to ride the RC213V at a knife's edge in order to be competitive, resulting in a lot of crashing during practice sessions and races as well.Photo courtesy of motogp.com

"It's not easy to manage the situation," explained Pedrosa in Brno when asked about how he felt being trapped in an apparently hopeless situation. "There are better and worse moments, but this is part of the competition. I can only do one thing: give 100 percent every time." When explaining what the problem is, Pedrosa agrees with Crutchlow: "With the Michelin tires, by their nature, you make time in the middle of the corner and the exit. The lap time is there, but it’s not in braking. What happens is that you cannot do it with the bike we have. I rode behind other riders here, and at every turn they were taking a little advantage, which added is what makes the difference at the end of the lap. What is the solution? Search for other places to make up time, obviously, but..."

And what do they say at Honda? Shuhei Nakamoto, vice president of HRC, basically throws all the blame on the new electronics. According to him, when HRC’s engineers understand and can properly setup the spec ECU, the problems will disappear and the bike will become competitive. Crutchlow, who has never been one to bite his tongue when talking to the press, does not share the same opinion. "The problem is electronics, chassis and engine, and as the engines are sealed until end of season, there is nothing we can do."

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Crutchlow fearless character isn't afraid to try and find the limits of any bike at any time, but it has cost him with the highest number of crashes in MotoGP at the moment.Photo courtesy of motogp.com

Crutchlow is equally explicit when it comes to judging the performance of his two Honda companions. He knows Marquez is the one who makes the difference. "Yes, it’s true that he uses a different chassis to mine and Dani, but make no mistake, if Marc takes my bike, without changing anything, he will still be in front. In the same way, if I jump aboard the bike that Marc is riding, I would not be any faster than I am. As for Dani, I repeat what I have said many times: if he had ridden another brand of bike, today he would be several times world champion."

Luckily for Crutchlow, on Sunday at Brno the race conditions were not normal, and in those situations, as happened in Germany, his determination took him to the podium. In this case, it was more the decision to ride his RCV with different tires from everybody else. But for Marquez and the other Honda riders, the Brit’s victory in Brno was a mirage...even if it was the rain.