British rider Cal Crutchlow believes it will be tough for him to score the third MotoGP podium of his career in tonight’s opening race of 2013 in Qatar.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider will start from the front row of the grid for the floodlit season opener after he finished the new 15-minute qualifying format in second position behind reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Crutchlow has been in brilliant form all weekend in Doha and he had topped the timesheets in the fourth and final practice session before shining again under the Losail International Circuit floodlights in Doha.
A lap of 1.54.916 rocketed the 27-year-old into top spot in QP2, which featured the fastest 12 riders battling it out for a place on the first four rows.
Crutchlow’s speed put him almost 0.3s clear of Repsol Honda rival Dani Pedrosa at one stage but he was unable to improve his pace on his second soft Bridgestone rear tyre and he dropped 0.202s behind Lorenzo at the end of a dramatic and tense 15-minutes.
His second place secured him his eighth front row start in MotoGP but Crutchlow is anticipating an epic battle for the podium in tonight’s 22-lap race, which kicks off the 18-round world championship campaign.
The former World Supersport champion said: “It is definitely going to be a tough race because there are a good six or seven guys that seem to be able to run the same pace.
"It is nice to be on the front row and we’ve carried on the momentum gained in testing. I’m faster than last year, which is always the aim for me. It is definitely going to be difficult but I will do the best job I can to stay with them.
"The team have done a great job and we’ve sat and assessed what we need to do in the race and we need to be able to stay with the guys in the first five laps.
"Last year I lost a lot in that area and if I can improve in that area there is no reason why I can’t stay there. Being on the front row is good because I am not always the best starter."
Crutchlow has been a permanent fixture inside the top three all weekend but he denied he would be disappointed if he failed to convert practice promise into a third podium to follow up his third places in Brno and Phillip Island last season.
He added: “I am not going to be disappointed because I am not expected to be on the podium. I am sure if Yamaha had two factory bikes ahead of me they will be very happy but if I can get in there, there is no reason why I can’t be up there.
"I’m not expected to be on the podium and there are six guys that can be in the fight for it.”