Cal Crutchlow: Barry Sheene comparison an honour, says MotoGP rider

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MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow test runs new track at Silverstone

Cal Crutchlow says it is "an honour" to be compared to Barry Sheene as he bids to become the first British rider to win a MotoGP title since Sheene in 1977.

Crutchlow, 32, led this season's standings after two races when he won in Argentina last month.

Two crashes have pushed him back to seventh, but the LCR Honda rider believes he can still challenge.

"If I didn't think that I could win I wouldn't be here," he said.

Out of the shadow of Sheene

Sheene was a household name in the UK in the 1970s and 80s.

He combined winning the 500cc world title on two occasions with partying with Formula 1 star James Hunt and George Harrison of The Beatles, owning a Rolls Royce and helicopter, and being frequently photographed with model girlfriends.

It was little surprise that he featured on the front and back pages of the newspapers.

Barry Sheene
Barry Sheene won 19 500cc grands prix between 1975 and 1981

Crutchlow does not grab anywhere near as much attention, but is hoping to bring the sport back into the mainstream with continued success.

He ended a 35-year drought for a British race winner in 2016 and his victory in Argentina was his third in the class.

"It's humbling to be compared to Barry Sheene. It's humbling to even be a British rider in MotoGP because it has been dominated for so many years by Spanish and Italian riders," Crutchlow said.

"To be spoken of in the same sentence as Barry is an honour. But he won a lot more races and championships than me. I was the first guy to win a premier-class grand prix since Barry and lead the championship - but he was on a completely different level to where the British level is now.

"We are trying to make it back to that. Back when Barry was racing it was such a mainstream sport in the UK - he made it that.

"Hopefully we can try to bring it to the forefront of people's minds as one of the best sports in the world. If we can get people watching they will love it.

"Everyone who comes to MotoGP for the first time says it's the best sport they have watched - and we intend to keep it that way."

Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow has three GP wins to his name so far

'A love/hate relationship with Silverstone'

Crutchlow can eclipse Sheene in one aspect this season - with a win in his home race at Silverstone in August.

The Englishman has not had the best of times at the Northamptonshire circuit, missing his first MotoGP there in 2011 after breaking a collarbone in qualifying, and broke his ankle a year later.

But he did take pole position and finish second behind Spaniard Maverick Vinales in 2016 and was fourth last season.

"It's massive for me to have British success," he said.

"I believe I can be the guy to win here at Silverstone. Coming fourth last year, that was hard for me to take. I had my sights set on winning the race.

"The plan is to come here and win the British GP, I've always thought about it in my mind. I've often thought if I win one I'll just drop the mic and not bother coming back again. I'll give 100% until the last lap."

'I'd like to see Rea in MotoGP'

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British riders have been dominant in World Superbike in recent years, with Northern Irishman Jonathan Rea winning the title for the past three seasons and finishing second in last year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Rea, 31, had two races in MotoGP in 2012 as cover for the injured Australian Casey Stoner and Crutchlow says he would like to see the Northern Irishman make the move across.

"It's great to see Brits doing well in Superbike," Crutchlow said. "We have always had that base of riders doing superbly in that class.

"He's with a very good team, he's a very good rider and I expect him to continue to win in that championship for as long as he decides to race. I'd like to see him in GP - it's about having the opportunity and taking the risk.

"Would he have that opportunity and would he want to take the risk? We know he'd be competitive, he's a fast racer, there's no doubt about that."