Cal Crutchlow’s fantastic fourth place in last weekend’s season opening MotoGP race in Qatar was confirmation of the huge leap made by the British rider for the 2012 world championship.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider held off a determined challenge from team-mate Andrea Dovizioso to equal his career best premier class result at the Losail International Circuit in Doha.
And Crutchlow’s former Yamaha World Supersport boss Wilco Zeelenberg reckons the 26-year-old’s brilliant display in the night race proves he is ready to become a consistent top six contender in MotoGP.
Crutchlow’s impressive 1000cc debut in Qatar was a vast improvement on his 800cc debut at the same venue back in 2011.
He qualified five places higher up the grid to claim his maiden front row start with third and the gap to pole position was reduced by over a second.
The gap to winner Casey Stoner in 2011 was 34.5s but the gap to Lorenzo last Sunday night was cut to 17s. And his fastest lap in the race was nearly a second quicker than last season. His overall fastest lap in 2011 was only 13th fastest, yet in Doha he was second quickest in the race and only race winner Jorge Lorenzo was quicker.
Zeelenberg, who now runs Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha squad, managed Crutchlow when he captured the 2009 World Supersport crown and he told MCN: “I’m very happy to see him up there and his result confirms the Yamaha package is really good.
"Cal’s fastest lap in Qatar was quicker than Jorge’s and you don’t do that unless you are riding very fast and with a lot of confidence. If you can do a lap faster than the race winner you are doing a good job and finishing fourth is a huge step compared to last year.
"He was fourth in Valencia but that was a strange race. This was a true result and I am really happy for him and I'm sure he will only get stronger."