Cal Crutchlow produced his best form of a tough Misano MotoGP weekend in this afternoon’s final qualifying session to secure a place in the middle of the second row for tomorrow’s 28-lap San Marino clash.
Lacking confidence with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine after a crash-strewn home race at Silverstone earlier this month, Crutchlow didn’t make the top 10 cut for QP2 for the first time since the new qualifying format was introduced for 2013.
He advanced with Ducati test and development rider Michele Pirro from QP1 and then improved his pace by more than 0.6s to claim fifth spot on the grid in a session dominated by world championship leader Marc Marquez.
But the 27-year-old admitted that he is still recovering the confidence lost at Silverstone and his main issue is in the fast sections where he is normally the strongest Yamaha rider.
Of the top 12 on the grid, the former World Supersport champion was slowest through the fast third sector and when asked by MCN why he said: “I won’t brake on the side of the tyre and I won’t take more risks. As soon as I have any angle and I brake I can feel the front move and I am not willing to push. It will come but I promise you we have had five different bikes this weekend and every single one I’ve said feels the same.
I don’t feel confident and comfortable and I don’t need to take too many risks because what I am going to gain by grabbing a handful of front brake and ending up in the gravel? I might as well ride around at my pace and at the minute I am content with that. It is funny how you lose it. I’ve gone from being the fastest guy in the world at Brno when I set the record there (Crutchlow took his second MotoGP pole in the Czech Republic) and now I am one of the slowest. That’s just the way it is and I need to learn patience and I think this will probably help me because I won’t turn it round overnight.”
The only time Crutchlow had finished inside the top 10 all weekend was when he took seventh spot in this afternoon’s FP4 and as usual he had been able to deliver his best form when his back was up against a wall.
He said: “When I am buried in the s**t I can normally get myself out of it. I still don’t feel confident and I am still 0.5s off the other Yamahas and most of that is in me. I lose a lot to Valentino (Rossi) in one sector, which in every track all year in every session I am faster than any other Yamaha rider in fast corners and now I am the slowest. I am obviously riding like a baby, which I am happy with at the moment.
I am not interested in taking any risks and I am trying to build my confidence back up. If that means 10th or 12th then so be it.”
Crutchlow, who finished just over a second behind Marc Marquez’s stunning record lap of 1.32.915, said he will be happy to finish inside the top eight tomorrow and he added: “I’d be happy with the top eight. My pace is OK but my bike is so slow that to pass anybody will be really difficult and I will need to get a good start to hold my position.
I will try and go with the guys that are faster than me but even Alvaro (Bautista) and Stefan (Bradl) are faster than me over race pace right now. If I can go with them I will be happy enough. For sure I am not aiming to beat the front three but things can change.”