Cal Crutchlow’s fantastic start to the 2013 MotoGP world championship continued in Le Mans yesterday when the British rider stormed to a career best second position.
Riding with a badly swollen right knee and a small fracture in his leg after a heavy crash in Saturday’s FP4 session, Crutchlow mastered tricky conditions on a wet and then drying track to finish behind new world championship leader Dani Pedrosa.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider had cut his way through from seventh to second place and his third MotoGP rostrum and first of 2013 saw him climb above factory Yamaha rival Valentino Rossi into fourth in the rankings.
The 27-year-old, who has yet to qualify and finish outside of the top five in the opening four races, said: “I felt comfortable and confident but I had some big moments. But everybody did. I was pleased because I rode to the conditions but for the last eight laps I was really concerned about the front tyre because I nearly crashed a few times, especially in turn four where I was saving it on my knee a few times. It was a difficult race but we worked hard for this and the team deserved it because I have been fast all year and this is a good moment for all of us. To be top Yamaha is nice but we always knew we were strong and this shows the level we are at, maybe not in the dry because of some differences but even in the dry I have a good bike."
Crutchlow made sure his career best second position was secured when he swept by former Tech 3 teammate Andrea Dovizioso on lap 24.
He was able to streak away from the Italian but he said Dovizioso was also having issues with front tyre wear as the track dried in the second half of the 28-lap encounter.
He added: “ Dovi is similar to me, he rides with the front a lot so he wears the front tyre a bit too much but he doesn't like the bike moving at all. So his first big moment and he was too scared. In the first laps me, Marc (Marquez) and Valentino we all had big moments but we managed to keep pushing. But Dovi rode a really good race. I was pleased he was leading and this reflects the level of the Ducati as well. It has become a lot stronger. But I was also pleased to beat Dovi.”
Crutchlow had little choice but to make a pass on Dovizioso to try and put some clear air between himself and the former 125GP world champion, particularly with Repsol Honda rider Marquez launching a terrific attack in the closing laps.
Crutchlow added: “If I did not overtake Dovi when I did then Marquez was coming for both of us. As soon as I saw Marquez take one second out of both of us in one lap I thought 'I have to go."
The pass had been close with Dovizioso having a big rear tyre slide as he tried to get the power down out of the first Esses.
And Crutchlow said: "Two laps before I did the same. But that was his first big slide. I saw he was getting weaker in some areas and that corner was one of them so it was nice to be finally able to pass him. His bike was quite fast so you had to get a run on him. If he had crashed at that moment then both of us would have crashed because I was close behind him so I'm glad he stayed on."
Before Rossi crashed out of fourth place on lap 18 while trying to keep himself in podium contention, the Coventry rider was confident he had the edge over the nine-times world champion.
But he had admitted to being cautious when attempting to find a way by Rossi.
He said: “He was another guy I had to race, like Dovi and Nicky (Hayden), but I was cautious with him. I am always a little cautious with another Yamaha rider.
If I hit them I am in trouble with Yamaha so I'm careful. I saw Dani taking a little gap on Dovi so I thought I have to go because if I had waited another two laps they both would have been gone. I passed Valentino where I crashed last year so I thought 'don't crash' because we would both be down. But Valentino was riding good and this was his first wet race since being back on the M1 but you could see his smoothness.
I expect if there is another wet race Valentino will be near the front again. He is so fast in the opening laps he is unbelievable. I couldn't get heat in the tyres but he pushed hard to get heat in the tyres. I always struggle to get heat into the tyres with the Yamaha whereas Valentino and Jorge can do it.
I think Valentino just has this mentality to go hard right from the beginning. Once I got the tyre warm I was a little more confident in the braking. Valentino was stronger mid-corner and on exit. And I think I was willing to take a few more risks."
For seven pages of coverage from Crutchlow’s career best result and Scott Redding’s maiden Moto2 win, see the May 22 issue of MCN.