Cal Crutchlow says his third place in MotoGP’s season-opening Qatar Grand Prix is a “dream” result after the huge crash in Australia last year that curtailed his 2018 season.
LCR Honda rider Crutchlow was forced to skip the final three races of 2018, as well as post-season tests at Valencia and Jerez, after a heavy crash in practice at Phillip Island left him needing multiple operations on his right ankle.
He made his comeback in testing at Sepang last month, but was pessimistic about his chances after a troubled Qatar test in which he said he had lost his usual front-end feeling with Honda’s RC213V bike.
Crutchlow qualified a strong sixth and stuck with the lead group throughout last weekend’s race, and finally came out on top in a battle with Suzuki rider Alex Rins to finish third behind Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and works Honda rider Marc Marquez.
“It’s great to be back to be able to race in MotoGP, let alone to be on the podium,” Crutchlow said.
“We worked hard this weekend because the tests were a bit of a waste of time for me, and also this weekend has been a difficult weekend.
“If you asked me after warm-up, when I finished 13th or 14th, if I would be on the podium, I would have laughed.
“It seems every race in MotoGP there’s a battle and it was nice to be in it. It was nice to be able to race and to get a podium is a dream to be honest.
“We didn’t know I would be coming back at all at one point, let alone come back and be competitive.”
Crutchlow said his first priority during his recovery from the Phillip Island crash was to be able to have a “normal life”, and that at one stage he was not sure if he would walk again.
“I have a lot of people to thank for me being able to walk again, let alone race,” he said. “It was not an easy road.
“At the start it was OK. To sit and watch the MotoGP races, I was fine, accepted it. But after when I couldn’t walk, it was difficult.
“I could ride my bicycle all week no problem, but I couldn’t walk. I didn’t know if would walk again.
“They [doctors] told me I would, but when you’re in that much pain you don’t know.”