Cal Crutchlow says it will be almost impossible to stop reigning world champion Casey Stoner from romping to a sixth successive victory in his home race at Phillip Island on Sunday.
The 27-year-old had feared his hopes of a fairytale win in his farewell Australian Grand Prix appearance would be severely hampered by the serious right ankle injury he suffered in a qualifying crash at Indianapolis back in August.
But Stoner superbly masked a lack of strength and mobility in the ankle to blitz the field on the opening day of practice at Phillip Island.
Stoner finished 0.905s clear of title contender Jorge Lorenzo in this morning’s opening practice session with a best time of 1.30.374.
He went even faster in sunny but blustery conditions this afternoon to end the day on top of the timesheets with a best time of 1.29.999.
That put him 0.885s clear of Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was the only rider to finish within a second of the double world champion.
Crutchlow finished an impressive fourth quickest as he shrugged off a fever and bout of bronchitis that he picked up flying to Melbourne from last weekend’s storm-lashed Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
The British rider was sixth this morning but almost 1.8s off Stoner’s pace. But he slashed almost a second off his best time in FP2 to finish fourth on the combined leaderboard with a best time of 1.31.367.
Speaking to MCN, Crutchlow said: “Considering how crap I feel I’ll be happy to get out of here with some decent points. I had a bad fever yesterday but the worst thing is the bronchitis because I can’t breathe. I must have picked it up on the plane from Malaysia to here but yesterday my temperature was really high. This track is so physical and with the wind you are constantly battling with the bike, so you’ve got no chance to have a break and that has made it difficult. But Casey is in another league.
Not even Lorenzo can take it to him and we know how fast he is at every circuit. Dani as well and both of them are not even close. He is in another league. Full credit to him because with his injury he has blitzed everybody and it looks like it will be a fairytale ending for him at Phillip Island, which is great for him."
Crutchlow said one of the issues holding him back in windy conditions was Yamaha’s gearbox, which is not a seamless shift system like those used by Honda and Ducati.
He added: “The big problem with the bike is we lose so much in the second sector. The Yamaha gearbox is so old that we can’t change gear when the rear tyre is spinning. Lorenzo is losing quite a bit of time like all of us compared to Casey and Dani in that area. You get so much spinning from the rear tyre at this circuit but you can’t change gear and that makes it difficult."