Cal Crutchlow’s expectation management skills went into overdrive again in Qatar tonight after the British rider finished second in the opening MotoGP practice session under the Losail International Circuit floodlights.
After topping the timesheets in the last test winter test session in Jerez last month, Crutchlow has been tipped to be a consistent podium threat in his third premier class campaign in 2013.
The 27-year-old’s brilliant form continued tonight in an opening practice session in Qatar that saw him head the timesheets for a period in the 45-minute session.
He eventually ended up second fastest in a session dominated by Yamaha’s YZR-M1. The former World Supersport champion clocked a best time of 1.56.743 to finish just 0.058s behind reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Crutchlow’s pace was 0.013s clear of factory Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi, who had threatened to pull off a fairytale return to a YZR-M1 when the Italian led for long periods in the session.
Speaking to MCN in Doha tonight, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider said: “I was pleased but I am not reading too much into it at all. I am happy to be second but it means nothing and I’ve still got a lot of work to do in some areas.
"The bike is pitching too high and when I brake too low so we’ve got too much movement with the bike but I am happy enough. To get the first session out of the way and be second is good but I’m not going to take too much from it or get too excited.”
Crutchlow also said he expects the challenge from Honda to get much stronger after a low-key start to 2013 from HRC duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
Rookie Marquez was fourth fastest and 0.591s behind Lorenzo while Pedrosa was struggling way down in eighth. The Spaniard only set a best time of 1.57.749 that left him 1.064s off title rival Lorenzo as he struggled on corner entry with the factory RC213V.
He ran off track more than once but Crutchlow said: “Three Yamahas on top is good but it just means that the fight is going to be tougher.
"When the track cleans up I think you will see some other guys going faster and moving up and the Honda is better when the track condition comes to them so don’t worry, they will be there.”
Lorenzo said he was surprised to see the RC213V struggle so much in conditions where the HRC contender is usually stronger than the Yamaha.
In low grip conditions at the new Circuit of the Americas in Texas last month, Honda dominated but it was the opposite in Qatar tonight and the reversal in fortunes even caught Lorenzo off guard.
After topping the timesheets with a best time of 1.56.685, he said: “It is strange and something like magic because in Austin we didn’t have the same grip as Honda and in theory here with much more sand and less grip we should have found it difficult again but at the moment they have more problems.
"I don’t know if they have grip problems but they are slower and for me this track has more grip than Austin for the Yamaha. It is hard to understand but it is like this.”