British rider Cal Crutchlow said he was baffled by a speed deficit with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine before he crashed out of podium contention in a rain-affected French MotoGP clash.
Crutchlow was locked in a terrific tussle with Italian duo Valentino Rossi and Tech 3 team-mate Andrea Dovizioso when he crashed out of fifth place at Turn 2 on lap 19.
The former World Supersport champion said a lack of speed on the straight compared to Rossi and Dovizioso was forcing him to push harder on braking and corner entry to keep himself in the hunt for his first MotoGP podium.
Speaking to MCN, the Coventry rider said: “I was having to push so hard into the corners because we had no straight line speed, I don’t know what was going on. I don’t know if we had the wrong setting on the straight with the traction control cutting in, but I had no speed on any straight.
"Even Andrea was pulling ten bike lengths on each straight in acceleration. I’m a little bit heavier but you would think that was an advantage in the rain because of the more contact.
"I didn’t have the best rear grip but the speed was the big issue. Pushing so hard into the corners to keep up meant you could see the end result when I crashed.”
Crutchlow said he was mystified as to why his YZR-M1 felt sluggish on the straight and was due to analyse data with his crew last night.
He added: “You expect to be able to stay in the slipstream. I had two guys in front of me and I should have been slipstreaming them but they would be pulling away from me.
"I wasn’t using the rear brake and we haven’t got much anti-wheelie on. I doubt something went wrong so maybe we have just got a slow bike.
"The problem was in the braking they were holding me up and in acceleration I was getting dropped right off. If I passed them they would get back by me on speed to the next corner.”
Crutchlow took some consolation from crashing out of fifth as he had at least been competing for a podium when he tumbled out.
He lost 34 seconds in the spill but still managed to claim eighth place and he said: “I’m not taking it as a downer weekend because we finished eighth. I was battling for the podium and I was quickest in the wet warm-up, so we can take a lot from this.
"I was fighting with Valentino and he finished second. He went up and caught Casey (Stoner) and I think we had the potential to go with him and be on the podium.”
For more coverage from Le Mans, see this week’s Motor Cycle News, available on May 23.