Valentino Rossi praised fellow Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow after the Briton easily beat him to claim a fantastic fourth place finish in the first MotoGP race to be staged at the state-of-the-art Circuit of the Americas (COTA).
Crutchlow was thrilled with his COTA debut after he claimed the scalps of Rossi and Stefan Bradl in the 21-lap clash.
Both were expected to comfortably deal with the threat posed by Crutchlow’s satellite Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 on the long and technical track near Austin.
Not only do both have factory machinery but they were two of the five riders to attend a private test at COTA last month, giving them a significant advantage in track knowledge.
Not an even an early off-track excursion on lap four while attempting to negotiate a way by Bradl’s LCR Honda could deny Crutchlow, who drew praise from a struggling Rossi.
Crutchlow recovered to pass Bradl and Alvaro Bautista and for the second half of the race he was faster at times than reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
He beat Rossi by 10 seconds as the Italian struggled with a lack of weight over the front-end of his YZR-M1 and a damaged Brembo front carbon brake disc that left him struggling with a major vibration problem.
Rossi, who had made a stunning return to Yamaha in Qatar earlier this month to claim second, said the fact that Crutchlow had finished so high up after missing the COTA test was particularly impressive.
The nine-times world champion told MCN: “I expected Jorge to do this because he is the faster rider in a better shape. But Crutchlow rode very well. Jorge was not so far from the Honda but also Crutchlow did a fantastic job without testing and he was better than me.”
Crutchlow said he had done a better than he’d expected on his way to Texas, particularly considering the disruption to preparations caused by a fire in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage on Wednesday night.
He said: “With no testing here I was worried that it would be more of a struggle and the fire in the garage on Wednesday meant we couldn’t do any of our normal prep work. So to finish fourth and be behind Marquez, Pedrosa and Lorenzo is a great achievement for all of us and I want to say a massive thanks to my crew.
We qualified well and I rode very well in the race and the most pleasing aspect was my consistency. Unfortunately I ran wide while trying to pass Bradl but I managed to fight my way back through and I was running the same speed as Lorenzo for a long time and that gives me a lot of confidence to take into the next few races.”
Crutchlow admitted it was job well done after he finished inside the top four for only the seventh time in his MotoGP career.
The 27-year-old told MCN: “I was worried I might crash while trying to make up for not testing here but I wanted to finish as close to the front as possible because that’s the racer in me. I rode hard and sensibly but I never gave up.”
Crutchlow was once again the leading satellite team rider and his fourth consolidated his fifth place in the overall rankings.
In Qatar and now Texas it is only factory machinery that has finished in front of Crutchlow and he added: “If only those three guys are faster then you then you are doing something right. I am doing what I can on satellite bike and that’s it. I’m definitely getting the best out of it what I can.”
For more exclusive thoughts from Crutchlow on his successful COTA debut, see the April 24 issue of MCN.