Trackside Tuesday: An Embarrassment of Riches

04/23/2013 @ 1:53 pm, by Scott Jones23 COMMENTS


Marc Marquez stole several things this past weekend at the Circuit of the Americas. Freddie Spencer lost two records (youngest rider to set pole and youngest rider to win a premie-class GP race), and Cal Crutchlow lost a great deal of attention he deserved for a fantastic performance, in some ways his best since coming to MotoGP.

So many members of the media were focussed on Marquez’s record setting that few of us gave due attention to how remarkable a job Crutchlow was doing on his first visit to this new facility. Marquez, Pedrosa, and Lorenzo were fastest in qualifying, helped by the experience at COTA that was gained during the pre-season test in March — also along for that test were Valentino Rossi and Stefan Bradl.

But, Crutchlow did not make that trip, and thus put in his first laps at Circuit of the Americas on Friday. Those first laps were after a garage fire had dealt Tech 3 the wild cards of drenched equipment that, though thoroughly dried by the hard-working crew, remained of questionable reliability given the soaking they had received Wednesday night.

While Marquez rightly had the majority of our attention, consider the performance of a satellite rider on his first weekend at a new track.

Compared to the fastest rider in each session (always either Marquez or Pedrosa), Crutchlow was 2.476 seconds behind in FP1, 1.868 back in FP2, 1.222 in FP3, 1.046 in FP4, steadily closing the gap to the more experienced (at COTA) riders with each session.

He qualified his satellite Yamaha in fourth place, ahead of Rossi’s factory M1 and Bradl’s factory-spec Honda, at what has been acknowledged by most as a track that suits the Honda best. In the Warm-Up session he was second fastest, only .017 behind Pedrosa.

Once the race started, Crutchlow grew ever more frustrated as he tried to find a way around Bradl, eventually running wide at the end of the back straight and having to restart his attempt to catch the first three riders. Several laps later he was right behind Bradl again, clearly faster in any section of the track that wasn’t a straight line. He claimed fourth place with 13 laps to go and set after Lorenzo.

Once past Bradl and with clear track ahead, Crutchlow set a series of fastest laps. On Lap 9 he was the only rider in the 2.04s, Lap 10 he was the fastest 2.04, then he was fastest again on Laps 14, 17 and 21. Though unable to catch them, overall he maintained the pace of Marquez, Pedrosa, and Lorenzo, as Bradl and Rossi fell back.

All of this he did on his second-hand Yamaha M1, and without the benefit of the testing time from which the others in the top six benefitted. If Crutchlow could manage this at a new track, and on a satellite bike, one can’t help wondering what he’d do on a factory machine and with equal experience.

The satellite status curse struck again post-race: After this fantastic effort, no one turned up at his media debrief to hear his thoughts about what he’d accomplished. The Marquez-Pedrosa-Lorenzo press conference ran long, then Rossi’s debrief time was changed at the last minute, and it seemed that Rossi’s failure to compete for the podium was bigger news than Crutchlow’s factory-level performance.

Those who looked at the lap times later would see that, from Lap 9, when Crutchlow passed Bradl and had clear track to match Lorenzo’s, the reigning world champion was faster than Crutchlow for six laps (12, 13, 15, 16, 19, 20), while Crutchlow was faster than Lorenzo seven times (9, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18, 21). Surely those stats were worth a question or two.

Cal’s performance in Austin suggests he may have made yet another step in his improvement as a rider. A different plot to the race’s first lap might have put Crutchlow in a battle with Lorenzo for the podium, each rider’s lap times matching the other’s.

But regardless of several “what if’s,” Yamaha seems to have a bit too much of a good thing. The role of a satellite rider is not to beat the factory team’s riders and take points away from the Teams Championship, which is just what Cal did this weekend, earning more points for Tech 3 than Rossi earned for the factory Yamaha team.

If the goal of a satellite rider is to be the best of the rest, Crutchlow is showing he’s much more, i.e., a factory-level rider stuck on a satellite machine.

He has improved steadily since coming to MotoGP, last season earning two podiums and three 4th place finishes for a total of 11 top six results in 2012. He seems set to be 2013’s Best of the Rest in his sleep. But if you’re setting multiple fastest laps in the company of Marquez, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Rossi, how satisfying can Best of the Rest truly be?

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photos: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Bravo Scott, one our best Trackside Tuesday’s yet!

    Cal got shafted big time on Sunday afternoon. Part of it is the media madness that goes on after every race, where debrief times are constantly changed, over-run, and in cases like this, even over-looked. Another part is just the Rossi domination of the media, and his ability to run the show in the paddock with the Spanish/Italian press.

    To be fair, I looked all over for Cal’s debrief spot, and couldn’t find it. Some order needs to be brought to the Yamaha camp in its PR structure. The factory team’s debrief times were never posted (and often occurred in conflict with other rider’s times which had been up since Thursday), and their locations were ad hoc to put it mildly.

  • As you know, I always try to attend Cal’s debriefs if I possibly can. But I had to catch an early flight home immediately after the race. I’m sure others would’ve been there, too, including David Emmett and Matt Birt, if other factors hadn’t conspired. So on a personal level I feel bad for Cal, and on a professional level, it’s messed up that another rider’s failure to do something grabs more attention than the incredible things Cal actually did.

  • German

    Cal did a superb job, I can not believe nobody went to hear him, specially because he talks directly and sincerely.

  • Jimil Borillo

    Great article, Scott. Thanks for the time and effort to put this together. Cal definitely deserved more than the attention he received. He put a huge amount of effort into this race and it is a shame that his accomplishment at CotA is diminished by the rest of the media. Even with the setbacks in the garage he showed…no, he proved that he can run with the big boys and I hope that he gets the factory ride he deserves.

  • paulus – Thailand

    Big respect to Kal!
    Great performance, under tough circumstances… screw being the ‘best of the rest’. GO FOR IT!

  • jet

    Can care less about the lucky rookie its CAL that yes i myself took note to that finished,it was an awesome ride and kuddos goes out to his crew chief and crew,i’m stoked for them all.Rossi is all but washed up,I want CAL to hog all them yamaha points…lol

  • Slangbuster

    Thanks for this article. Frankly, I was watching him more than anyone else during the race. He was the “Man on Fire” and it’s going to be a long season for all the boys up front with this gunfighter on their tail. Picture here the scene from “The Shining” when Nickolson breaks through the door with an axe…”HERE”S JOHNNY”!

  • “Crutchlow is showing he’s much more, i.e., a factory-level rider stuck on a satellite machine.”

    Exactly, Scott. Exactly. Crutchlow is going to convince somebody to put him on a factory bike, if only to keep him from stealing points from the factory riders. Add to his mad skillz his charming crankiness and you have a character that I have a hard time imagining the media ignoring.

    He was done a disservice by being ignored this past weekend. The media/sport would do well to ensure he keeps on enjoying himself and, therefore, happy to be in the paddock.

  • Stevenk27

    How many more of these performances will he need to put out before Yamaha realize what they have???
    He should be on a factory spec satelite bike like Bradl at the very least, I do believe though that if he were it would upset the factory teams point scoring ability greatly.
    I still believe that if it was down to actual performance and current form Cal would’ve been on the factory bike next to Lorenzo. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the following that Rossi has which is sad that the decision comes to just that, money.

  • Asaf

    Brilliant article and a brilliant ride by Cal.

    Shame on the media, he deserves better than that.

  • Paul

    CaL DID do very well,but i think a lot is being made of his bike being a satelite bike.Go to the site and take a look at the top speeds..Here is a hint.Cals Yamaha wasnt the slowest.He should be careful what he wishes for,as we know that high horsepower bikes arent always the best bikes.

  • XJDiv

    Cal is a great rider, a great personality for MotoGP and certainly has the ability to put in consistant fast laps but unfortunately his overtaking is evidently lacking compared to the top four riders.
    How many times last season, and already this, have we seen Cal looking much faster in the corners than the man in front but have no clue how to get past them. This happened most of last season vs Dovizioso and then Qatar was a prime example when Rossi showed him how it’s done.
    At Texas it took Bradl running wide for him to get clear and run the pace he’s capable of when not having to plan and execute an overtake. Yes he can be as fast as a factory rider but he’s not quite at their same level of racecraft just yet.

  • ken

    i t would have been nice if speed showed anyone on track except marquez and pedrosa. im pretty sure it was literally 21 laps of them 2 and no one else. Maybe speeds coverage wouldnt suck so bad if they show some of the battles that happen behind the top 3. i didnt even notice Cal managed to boucne back from running wide early until i read it in the article monday morning.

  • Marco

    Yeah Cal did a great job, but perhaps he needs to be on the podium to create the attention you think he deserves.
    Ok fine, Rossi got so much attention and was far from battling for 3rd spot. But he’s got a history at MotoGP no one has. Everyone wants to see if he can still cut it.

    That said, I would love to see Cal on the podium now and then. Winning races? With guys like Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa, I guess he will need quite a bit of luck.
    I feel for him though, given the current configurations, he’s not gonna get that factory ride soon.

  • Thanks for this Scott – brilliant report. I am a sponsor of Cal so possibly slightly biased :-) but was absolutely delighted with his performance, and told him so. Cal is never truly happy unless he wins, but he himself was rather proud of this! A main topic of conversation Sunday night over margaritas at our group dinner was “which factory ride will Cal get?”
    I am proud to be associated with him.

  • CTK

    Not to take anything away from dude, but wasn’t he the guy who Rossi ran off the track at Qatar? Having the ability and pace is one thing, but a big part of winning is not blinking.

    One way or another though, more guys running podium grade paces is only a good thing. I hope Crutchlow continues to give the factory boys hell and becomes more of a threat for podiums and points.

  • MTGR

    This type of thing has always been a beef with me. many of my friends think I hate Rossi when in actuality I like him but what I do hate that as soon as Rossi is at track everyone else has to suffer a lack of coverage in the media and credit for their performances.

    I appreciate Rossi’s legacy, but F1 survived without Schumaker and MotoGp will have to find a way to do the same without Rossi soon. You would think the last 2 years would have been good practice for them, but apparently not. Everything still has to be Rossi. A dangerous attitude for any promoter who looks more than 5 feet in front.

    I think its already clear to everyone that Yamaha should not have listened to their marketing men and sacrificed a better rider (Crutchlow/a healthy Spie/any number of rup-and-comers) for a better t-shirt seller (Rossi).

    My props to A&R for having the ability to step back and report facts vs. the hyperbole everyone else is interested in. Oh, and Yamaha, you might note you can get Ducati hats with a 46 on them for dirt cheap at the track now!

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    Probably under the media radar no more.

    Crutchlow was great at COTA. In light of circumstances, he was brilliant. Repeat performance required again… and again. Media attention will come. Gotta earn it baby.

    Some say Cal’s bike is the same as Jorge’s and Val’s. Some say it isn’t. Nobody here knows. But if Crutchlow keeps beating path towards the podium he won’t need to worry about media attention.

    Everybody should keep an eye on Dovi too. He’s very quietly getting better and better on that Ducati. Talk about an underrated rider. Cal was angry about the seat at Ducati going to Dovi, but its pretty clear he is better than Cal.

    Plan on a farewell party for Nicky and Spies. It sucks, but it’s how it goes when you sink.

  • Reg Kittrelle

    Yes, Crutchlow got shuffled aside but, ultimately, this is a good thing. Without overbearing media attention he and his team can continue to improve and surprise. His day will come, and those not paying attention will wonder, “Where’d he come from?” Those of us who watch closely will not be surprised.

    If you continues to progress, a full-factory ride will be in his immediate future …could even be Rossi’s.

  • Adam

    Cal is running the same engine as Lorenzo and Rossi. Jarvis said this in the pre-race press conference. he also indicated that Cal is on last years frame. so assume his tires, breaks wheels, suspension, chain. blah blah blah is all the same. so that leaves electronics and who is writing the logic. it’s up to his team to make his top level bike work, even if he was on a factory ride this is his potential on a Yamaha. just like Dovi his potential on any bike is 3rd – 4th. I like Cal but he will never be a MotoGP champion sadly.

  • L2C

    Maybe I’m going to catch flak for this, maybe I won’t. Whatever.

    Cal Crutchlow gets at least 5 minutes airtime on BBC Sports at nearly every race. Even if they don’t get him, they make an attempt to. He even gets several featured spots throughout the course of a season, as well. He is a frequent topic of discussion among the announcers and race commentators for every race on BBC, Eurosport and ONE. And he has been the beneficiary of all this since his debut in MotoGP. Last year he received all of this attention despite not being able to best Andre Dovizioso for most of the season. And the only occasions when he did do better than Dovi, was when he out-qualified Dovi for grid position.

    To my mind, Crutchlow’s apparent improvement is down to the fact that Dovizioso is on an inferior machine this year. And although Crutchlow has been making good on his promise for Tech 3 more than Stefan Bradl has been for LCR, it was Dovizioso who was his main rival last year. Without a doubt, passing Bradl and making it stick was important at COTA, but I don’t think anybody would say that Bradl and Dovizioso are the same class of rider. I would argue that even though Crutchlow’s pace has been more or less even with the front runners this year, it has been because he virtually has no rival this year. Even though he managed to hang with Márquez and Pedrosa in Qatar, he didn’t attempt a single pass on either of them for the entire race. Rossi showed up and passed and beat them all. And while folks are bringing up the fact that COTA was new to everybody, and that his team had more time to prepare than Crutchlow’s did, Crutchlow’s team managed to furnish him with a competitively set up machine, whereas Rossi’s team failed to do the same thing. Rossi had problems with the front end and brakes all weekend. Broken chips and brake discs will hamper anybody’s performance. See Ben Spies and Colin Edwards for similar scenarios. See Pedrosa for lack of rear tire grip at Qatar. See Lorenzo for not having enough to bridge a two-second gap to Márquez and Pedrosa at COTA.

    Shit happens – but not always and not to everybody. And what about Aleix Espargaro? Surely he would have been sticking it to Crutchlow if he had a better bike, factory or satellite. Where’s his richly deserved press for riding his CRT to the maximum and slaying the entire CRT field, plus a factory and satellite bike on Sunday?

    So, yes, Crutchlow deserved something. He deserved most of what Scott gave him here, but the whining about not getting enough attention for his good deeds? Please, he has been getting at least enough already. But because he was temporarily forgotten this past weekend, there’s an outcry that he was undeservedly overlooked. He doesn’t deserve that. What he deserved was to be interviewed and written about for what he had done this past Sunday, without the mention of whether he deserved it or not. Because now it just sounds like more excuses to write about him even though he actually did do something worth a few paragraphs.

    No doubt the BBC, at least, will remedy the situation come Jerez on May 5th. But I would say that Scott beat them to the punch. And David Emmett could done so before Scott had the chance.

    The idea that Rossi doesn’t deserve what he gets, when what he gets is all part and parcel of the game, is simply wide of the mark. Switch Rossi’s and Crutchlow’s positions in history, and I would say the same. Rossi is so much more of a story than any rider on the grid, it is not even funny. In fact, it is serious business and that’s why he continues to receive as much as he does. But besides that, he has done a tremendous amount for the sport. (I’m sure I didn’t need to repeat that tired phrase.) If he had retired at the end of last year, like Stoner did, do you think that the viewing numbers for Qatar would have been as substantially better this year than they were last year? Crutchlow and other riders did receive some credit for the increases, but who are we kidding? We know that Rossi’s fame transcends borders and nationalities, and evidence of that was shown by more journalists seeking his story over Crutchlow’s this past Sunday. Yet Rossi did do something at Qatar to justify, at least in part, his continued popularity.

    What Crutchlow deserved was for journalists to write about what he had done sans the comparison to what Rossi didn’t do. Sans the comparison to what Rossi got for it versus what Crutchlow got for it. That’s what should have happened. When you start talking about the deserving and undeserving, you actually do Crutchlow a disservice, because it also highlights what he has failed to do, what he has yet to achieve, and how he was rewarded for it in the past.

    So, please, just stop. Crutchlow was great on Sunday. Talk about that, write about that, and leave it at that.

    Oftentimes I find myself over at because the reporting is nearly 100% hyperbole-free. The stats are accurate, the points of interest are accurate, and commentary from the riders and teams is accurate. Do I need more than that? Leave excessive hyperbole and regionalism and nationalism to the fans, I say, but tell a story that tells the story, not how you wish it would have turned out. If you want to talk about how you wish things would go, leave it for the comment section where everybody else does the same. Blog separately about it. Write an article which treats the central subject with what it deserves; have the commentary reflect the position that the sport and teams and all of the riders are in, rather than just comparing two favorites as if favorable or unfavorable situations only affect them, with one the hero and the other the villain. Because when you do this, you fail. You create inaccurate impressions, you create divisions and do a disservice to the sport and your favorite teams and riders. But maybe it’s more fun for journalists and bloggers to do it the way they have been doing it – selling sensationalism rather than the sensation. I can understand why, but the sport is clearly so much more better than that.

  • Bully

    I’m with L2C here – well written, maybe a job writing stuff like this could be in your future?

    As for Cal, he’s a bit stuck really…. He annoyed Ducati after grizzling that they offered him a contract, he didn’t sign it, they signed someone else, he wasn’t happy.

    Honda have a new superstar who doesn’t need a teammate who might possibly rock that boat, sand isn’t Bradl being groomed for that job?

    Yamaha have their team settled for this and next season I would guess. Can’t see VR only being back there for one season.

    So where are all these factory offers going to be coming from? Either a new effort from Suzuki, which we know will take a couple of seasons to get up to speed. or hope Ducati can get over his perceived rudeness.

  • “isn’t Bradl being groomed for that job?”

    Assuming that both Pedrosa and Marquez can stay uninjured, I expect Repsol Honda to stay with the same lineup for as many years as those two choose to ride in the championship. If Bradl were to leave LCR, the logical next spot for him would probably be with Suzuki (assuming they actually go racing again). Even then, I would expect Suzuki to pair up with Aspar, which would hopefully net Aleix Espargaro a proper factory ride.

    The popcorn is good this year.