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No Brits in MotoGP - Crutchlow, Lowes, Toseland, Smith give their analysis

This Sunday sees the first time in over a decade that there will be no full-time British rider on the MotoGP grid.

Cal Crutchlow’s retirement from competitive racing, albeit with a factory Yamaha testing role to keep him in the game, and Aprilia choosing Lorenzo Savadori over Bradley Smith to line-up alongside Aleix Espargaro, leaves a disappointing gap in the market as far as home support goes.

Commenting on the situation, Crutchlow admits, “Obviously it’s sad for British fans not to have a British rider racing in MotoGP this year. It’s sad for MotoGP. Historically they have had some good British riders over the years.


“It’s disappointing. I thought the same as everybody else, that Brad would be racing for Aprilia but I’m not surprised about the news because as we know teams from manufacturers make strange decisions sometimes.

“Bradley can ride a motorcycle and he’s been competitive over the years and a good test rider as well. I think his work ethic is very good.”

The Isle of Man resident, however, does not believe it should be too much of a concern for the next couple of years at least, with British stars shining in both Moto2 and Moto3.

Obviously we have good talent in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, hopefully some of those guys will be able to make the step up, or the step back up in Sam Lowes’ case.

“The guys he was battling with last year came to MotoGP so it shows he has the talent and the speed to be here as well,” added Crutchlow.

He is similarly confident about Jake Dixon, explaining, “It all depends on what happens with Petronas rider line-up in the future. He has a great shot to slot into that, we have to see how he gets on in Moto2, essentially you have to be winning races and be on the podium to get that shot.”

Catching up with Lowes ahead of the 2021 season opener, he was equally as disappointed with this year’s lack of representation.

“It’s hard times,” he told Bikesportnews.com, straight to the point as ever. “Of course you should only get a shot in MotoGP if you deserve it and nationality shouldn’t affect it too much but it’s sad to see no Brits on the grid. We have enough fast riders that could do well there. I hope in the next years we can get good riders with good bikes and show what we can do.

“Personally I would love another shot and I feel like I could get some important results to help bring more Brits there in the future.

“I’ve obviously had a go in MotoGP, unsuccessfully but the situation was very difficult,” the number 22 explained. “Also since I’ve left that team, other people have gone in that side of the garage and also had it very difficult, so I feel like I’ve got a little bit of unfinished business.


I would like to get another chance because I feel like I could do a lot, lot better but obviously I need to earn my shot, I need to deserve it.

“I think I’ve shown that I’m back in a good way, so if I can do similar to last year and improve in some areas, then there’s absolutely no reason why I don’t deserve a shot, I know I’m 30 but it’s not like I’m 50! In the end if you’re fast and you can be there, then you deserve to be there, so I’d love for another go on a decent package to see how I can get on, but let’s just see what plays out the next few months.”

When asked what he thought needed to change in order to ensure a flow of British talent through to the premier class in the future, Lowes responded, “It’s hard to say exactly but we need to start working on getting younger fast riders riding in Europe with the support on good bikes to do well.”

It’s a sentiment that Smith shares only too well, with the 30-year-old starting up his own ‘109 Project’ to foster young British talent through the Spanish system, starting in ESBK, in a bid to assist in bridging that gap but he’s aware that the all-important finance and support can be hard to find.

“There’s a massive difference between when I came through the entry level, and now,” the Oxfordshire rider reflects. “Just in terms of the amount of budget and the amount of interest that was around. I got super lucky and I’m not afraid to say that.


"I came through at a time when Dorna was looking for a talented British rider to put into 125s but as lucky and as great as my career has been, it’s kind of scary to think I got to where I am in racing and there’s been no corporate British sponsor the whole time I’ve been there.

“Zarco’s comeback in GPs shows what can happen when an industry gets behind a rider and he gets support from his home GP promoter and national sponsors,” he also pointed out.

Former MotoGP rider and two-time WorldSBK Champion James Toseland also believes the European system is the key to success in the Grand Prix paddock.

“There just isn’t the system there is in Spain and Italy, but Spain, predominantly” Toseland told us. “If you look at the nationalities of the top riders, there’s no coincidence that there’s a big bulk of Spaniards.

You go down to Spain, and you go to Albacete, Almeria, or Andalusia, and they’re flying around most days, most weeks. They’ve got the CEV Championship and the Junior Moto3. You watch them boys going round at 12, 13, 14 years old and, as an ex-professional, I can’t tell much difference to what I’m watching from that to a full on Moto3 test.

“Also look at the tracks that they’re going around on. You’ve got Jerez, Valencia, Aragon, Barcelona, you’re already doing a chunk of international race tracks at a really, really young age.

"Because the MotoGP here is only Silverstone, as a youngster if you know Silverstone obviously that’s cool but if we had three or four tracks in the UK that were on the MotoGP calendar, then you could have four good races and you’re pretty set for maybe signing a contract for the next year. All of these factors are a reason we are a little bit behind on a constant flow of the next generation.

“I know a friend of mine races his 13/14 year-old son in the Spanish championships and the Junior Moto3, he’s been putting £60,000 into each year for the past four or five years! That’s not even the top teams. If you want an Estrella Galicia Junior Moto3 ride, for example, you’re talking 150 - 200,000 Euros, and that’s Junior Championship, that’s not Moto3.

"That’s not the rich dads going down there and buying a ride for his son that hasn’t really got the talent to get in there himself. That’s just the natural progression for the kids that are fast.

“We paid £15,000 for my 600 championship, including crashes - so I know Mick Corrigan was not making a profit,” the 40-year-old joked.

National promotion and social media play equally important roles too. BSB is king in Britain, whereas the young riders in Spain and Italy, automatically want to be the best in MotoGP, and therefore Moto2/3 on their way up. National TV and riders’ socials are filled with their journey and their successes so the kids watching them are also aspiring to that. For British kids, the path they see most often is BSB.

Recent years has seen a dominance of British riders moving up and challenging strongly in WorldSBK, however, the British support doesn’t always follow. Why? Toseland has his own theory.

“I think with BSB fans, they are BSB fans. It’s like the championship is their football team. WorldSBK or MotoGP is not their team. With BSB they go into Cadwell Park with their mates, having a coffee on the way, a bacon sandwich and watching whoever it is that’s in BSB. That’s their thing.

"They’re not interested in staying at home, not on their bikes, and watching Valentino or watching whoever it is, you know? The atmosphere and the actual experience of going into BSB meetings and all that friend base that goes to it, that family, because it is a family, isn’t it? That’s it. That’s their football team.

"So it doesn’t matter who’s in it. So if you leave and go to WorldSBK or MotoGP, then you’ve left their football team.

“As a British rider coming through the British championships, you look at the likes of Josh Brookes, or Shane Byrne, real big names in BSB. If you’re a British superbike fan, they’re the men, but on an international level, you’ll very, very seldomly find people that know those names.

"Going through Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, the PR and marketing through those three championships as a kid, it’s just another level of exposure. So by the time they do get to Moto2 or MotoGP, they are a brand in their own right and that’s what MotoGP want, because it’s about the stars, isn’t it?

“To get beyond this and to help young riders in the UK, unfortunately, it’s money and infrastructure that’s needed. Unless we can have a system and rules where we can allow riders to ride at a younger age, get some kind of government help and support, like athletes do in the Olympics, where they get endorsements to go to Spain to do their national championships, say, if that’s where the kids are starting.

"Look at the riders that have been successful, Bradley Smith pretty much grew up in Spain, Scott Redding, the same.

“We’re also missing the market. When you look at Zarco, the UK doesn’t come close to the French market, as far as bike sales go. I know that when I rode the Yamaha, the French market was much more valuable than the UK market. Underneath it all that’s what it’s about. It’s about selling motorcycles, we’re just glorified advertisers basically.”

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