British rider Cal Crutchlow believes he will have to be much faster in the opening three laps of MotoGP races in 2013 to help him become a consistent podium threat.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider heads into the opening race in Qatar next weekend brimming with confidence after he topped the timesheets in the final winter test session in Jerez earlier this week.
But the former World Supersport champion has identified his early speed as races as a weak point he must improve to bolster his hopes of adding to the two podium finishes he claimed in Brno and Phillip Island last season.
Crutchlow told MCN: “I need to work on my early pace. Normally if you get away with them you can stay with them and I need to be faster in the first couple of laps. There weren’t that many races last year where I got dropped as such.
At Motegi they went but I kept the gap the same but it was the first three or four laps that they took the gap. I think it is about experience. In qualifying when I leave the pit lane I can do a fast lap straight off the bat. In the race I can’t do that and some of that was down to the full fuel load and the weight making it hard to stop the bike in the first laps. But there’s no doubt that’s an area I need to improve.
I crashed at Misano last year through frustration and not through anything else because I had a bad first lap. If I can stop that sort of thing and get away with the guys at the front it would make it a hell of a lot easier.
The problem is with that you can’t really work on it in testing. It’s not something you can say, ‘right I’m going to just go out and start going nuts’. You don’t want to be taking risks like that in practice or in testing so it’s something I’m going to have to work on in the race and hopefully it will improve in the season.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal said the French-based team had analysed Crutchlow’s performance in the early laps and he said: “He was really strong in qualifying and on a flying lap he is very, very strong.
The area he has to improve is the start and the first three laps. That is where Dani (Pedrosa) and Jorge (Lorenzo) are killing the field, so if he can have a better start and better pace early on in the race then he has a good chance.
We have checked last year that after laps five or six the speed and the lap times of Cal and Dani and Jorge were almost the same. But the gap was made after those laps and you can never recover it.”
Poncharal also said that Crutchlow needed to work on being consistent. Crutchlow had a brilliant opening half to 2012 but he only finished in three out of the last eight races, which included his two podium finishes.
But bad luck like running out of fuel on the last lap in Japan and some unforced errors cost him fifth in the overall rankings.
Poncharal added: “We need to be more consistent too. It is easy to make a mistake at such a high level but we need to finish. Last year he ended up seventh in the championship but really he should have been fifth.
He wasn’t where he finished through a lack of performance but a lack of finishing the races. The most important thing is to get a good start and have a good pace in the first five laps. This is where you win or lose the race.”
For more from Crutchlow in MCN’s 16-page preview to the new MotoGP season, see the April 3 issue of Motor Cycle News.