Cal Crutchlow believes his lowly ninth place on the opening day practice timesheets in Japan today was not a true reflection of his potential ahead of Sunday’s clash at the Twin Ring Motegi.
The British rider expects to be stronger over the rest of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, despite a best lap of 1.46.984 leaving him almost 0.9s off Dani Pedrosa’s best pace.
The 26-year-old was 0.7s behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Andrea Dovizioso and admitted his main issue was getting the maximum potential out of the hard compound rear Bridgestone tyre option.
Crutchlow, who is locked in a battle for fifth place in the overall championship standings with Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista, told MCN in Japan this evening: “It looks a lot worse than it is to be honest.
"I am less then a tenth off sixth and we had a few problems with the bike and tried two different set-ups. There is seven-tenths difference between me and Andrea and I thought it would all be in the braking where we know he is really strong.
"But hardly any of it is in the braking and that is good for me to know because it looks like we have made a step in that area.
"We struggle with the hard tyre and I don’t really know why. It was exactly the same in Brno but if you look in the middle of the session I was fourth, so it is hard to say where I stack up.
"I think I’m probably about fifth fastest but the only guy I can go off is Andrea because (Jorge) Lorenzo is on another planet. The gap between the factory and the privateer bike is getting bigger. I haven’t asked what he’s got but I don’t see it being the same as what we have got.”
Explaining why he was finding it so difficult to dip into the mid-1.47s on the hard rear tyre, the 2009 World Supersport champion added: “I just can’t get that comfortable with it.
"Side grip is different but it doesn’t just suddenly do something really bad. It just doesn’t do the lap time for me.
"I need to try it again tomorrow because these tyres are going to be the same next year and to be able to compete again I need to be able to use the hard tyre. I just need to put a better lap together.
"We had two bikes today that were completely different with 10mm on the front and 10mm on the rear. But I did exactly the same lap time and that shouldn’t happen.
"It is a little bit the bike and a little bit me. I’m not happy with the set-up and I didn't go very well here last year, so I need to improve.”