Cal Crutchlow’s outstanding early 2013 performances mean the British rider can be a dark horse for this year's MotoGP world championship.
That’s the view of factory Yamaha duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, who were split by the Monster Tech 3 satellite rider in the top three in tonight’s opening practice session in Qatar.
Crutchlow finished the opening 45-minute practice in second place with a best lap of 1.56.685 that left him just 0.058s behind reigning world champion Lorenzo.
The 27-year-old edged out nine-times world champion Rossi by just 0.013s and tonight’s impressive display came hot on the heels of him topping the timesheets in the final pre-season test in Jerez last month.
Crutchlow’s hot run of form prompted Lorenzo and Rossi to both declare that he could be a surprise title contender in 2013.
Talk of potential world championship contenders for the new season has only focused on Rossi, Lorenzo and Repsol Honda duo Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez.
Crutchlow is at a significant disadvantage because he is a non-factory rider currently campaigning the same spec YZR-M1 that Lorenzo raced to victory in Qatar 12 months ago.
But when asked by MCN in Doha tonight if Crutchlow was a dark horse for the championship, 34-year-old Rossi said: “For sure. At the Jerez test Cal was impressive but also in Sepang he was fast and his rhythm was good. But also (Stefan) Bradl is very strong but Cal can stay with the four of us."
Lorenzo also gave his thoughts on Crutchlow’s championship potential when asked by MCN during his post practice media debrief in the Losail International Circuit paddock.
The Spaniard said: “I think if he is patient and constant he can get a lot of podiums and even some victories. I don’t know about the championship but probably he can fight for the championship. If he is constant and patient he can do it.”