Cal Crutchlow says he will be happy to finish Saturday’s historic Dutch TT inside the top six, despite a heroic ride to set the second fastest time on the opening day of practice at Assen today.
Only 11 days after he broke and dislocated his left ankle in a practice crash for his home race at Silverstone, the British rider showed tremendous grit and determination to finish just 0.006s behind fastest rider Ben Spies this afternoon.
The 26-year-old, who is mulling over a two-year offer to quit Yamaha and join Ducati’s factory team in 2013, set a best time of 1.34.872 in a closely contested session that saw the top 11 split by just 0.471s.
Crutchlow had struggled in this morning’s session to build up his pace, with changing direction his biggest issue as he found it difficult to put weight through the left footpeg of his Monster Yamaha YZR-M1 machine.
He was also laid low by a mild bout of food poisoning but still finished second behind 2011 Assen winner Spies.
Crutchlow told MCN: “This morning was a disaster. The bike was a bit aggressive and my ankle wasn’t really used to things but this afternoon I got to grips with it a bit more.
"The main problem is it is really hard to change direction. I can’t push through the pegs so much. It is not on gas but off gas, particularly through that fast last chicane.
"It is hard for me to change direction there because I can’t push through the left footpeg. I can do it but only for about two laps and then it gets worse and worse. I’m still riding injured and these next three races are going to be really tough.
"This morning I didn’t feel too good but I am not looking for excuses. I just felt sick. I didn’t actually feel sick this morning but I felt sick when I was riding the bike.
"Afterwards I had to lie down and I took a tablet to settle my stomach and I have been fine. It must have been something I ate but I am not going to make any excuses about being sick.”
Despite his encouraging start to the seventh round of the 2012 world championship, Crutchlow doubts whether he will be able to battle for the podium on Saturday in his current physical condition.
His left ankle is still the source of considerable pain and discomfort and he added: “I’ll aim for the podium but I need to be a realist and the top six and some decent championship points I will be happy with. I was in the top six with the hard tyre and that is my aim for the weekend.”
The former World Supersport champion though is predicting another victory for factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo.
The Spaniard is chasing a fourth straight win for the first time in his career to try and extend his healthy 25-point lead over title rival Casey Stoner in Saturday’s 26-lap race.
And Crutchlow said: “I hate to tell you already but you will see the most boring race ever on Saturday. Lorenzo is going to run away like you have never seen. My race pace is the same as everybody else with a 35.3 and that’s what everyone is on apart from Lorenzo.
"He did the whole session on a hard tyre and he did a 35.0 on his last lap. You will see a good battle but I don’t think it will be for the win.”