Why Cal Crutchlow Isn’t HRC’s MotoGP Test Rider

Obviously Bradl’s statements on the ducting issues are ironic at a nearly stunning level. He is the HRC test rider

Andrea Dovizioso announced this today that he will no longer ride in MotoGP after the Italian Grand Prix the weekend of September 4th. Dovi’s ’22 run with the RNF team has been humiliating for the Italian as he struggles for pace and is nearly constantly passed by young riders with not even a quarter of his racing experience nor have they won races or challenged for the championship, as Dovi has done in the recent past.

He will be replaced on the RNF team by Cal Crutchlow, who is currently a Yamaha test rider and replacement rider.

While he works for Yamaha, Crutchlow is a shining example of the poor decision-making at Honda that has led to them being in the near complete mess they are in now in MotoGP. While he was at LCR Honda, HRC took Cal’s data guys and moved them to the factory team. This was supposed to be a temporary move, that LCR’s Crutchlow would get them back after one season. But after not even a season HRC decided to keep Crutchlow’s data men and said coldly that he could use the replacements if he wanted to stay in MotoGP. Long story short, then Cal decided he’d had enough of racing and to retire.

Typically a very fast factory rider like Cal would be hired by HRC as their MotoGP test rider. It’s clear this is a successful strategy when one considers how well it worked when Casey Stoner was HRC’s test rider and Marc Marquez was the factory rider. Casey was as fast as Marc, or faster, so his test results made for a very successful program. Stoner was able to discern quickly what strategies and parts would work for a rider at a very high level.

Before he was killed in 2017, HRC asked Nicky Hayden if he’d be interested in being the HRC test rider (he was in his final year of contract with Honda) next season. Nicky was so thoroughly disgusted and angry at Honda and HRC at that time (’17) that he told them, well, he’d think about it. Analytically this would have been a good match; Nicky knew what a fast rider needed from a test rider; he was a 2006 MotoGP champion and race winner. (He qualified seventh for this final MotoGP race, the Phillip Island event in 2016, before being knocked down by Jack Miller in the race.)

Crutchlow left the HRC fold and wasn’t interested in helping the company (HRC) which had removed a very big component of his successful program in MotoGP. They asked him if he’ like to be their test rider but he said no. Instead, he then signed to help Honda’s rival, Yamaha, as their test rider.

Now HRC is relying on Stefan Bradl to be their test rider. Unfortunately, Bradl has never been fast enough to win even one MotoGP race, and as a test rider he is like hiring “some random guy” for a hugely important role. HRC’s problems with the current inclination of the RC213V probably start with the fact that Bradl doesn’t have first hand knowledge of what kind of motorcycle Marc Marquez or Pol Espargaró need to win. Example: Bradl recently complained about how the ducting on the Honda MotoGP bike doesn’t work, that it bakes the rider like a cookie which is counter-productive to making a bike capable of winning races. Obviously Bradl’s statements on the ducting issues are ironic at a nearly stunning level. He is the HRC test rider; and if anyone has the ability to point out a problem, make the engineers aware of it from the first moment it happens and then push for a solution, then it’s Bradl.

The RC213V has had over-heating issues and riders complaining about having to work in an E-Z bake oven since mid-2016. But it wasn’t until he raced the bike that Bradl–THEIR FRICKIN’ TEST RIDER– became aware of the problem. Think about that for a moment.

Marc’s disastrous injury has certainly cost Honda in MotoGP, but the practices of Team Manager Alberto Puig and HRC management are very large factors as well.

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