British rider Cal Crutchlow will start tomorrow’s Mugello MotoGP race from fourth on the grid after he bounced back from a heavy qualifying crash to just miss out on a second front row start in 2013.
Crutchlow fell at Turn 3 after clipping a kerb on the inside while he was unsighted by water in his eyes caused by a hay fever problem he regularly suffers from.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider dropped back to seventh but after dashing back to the pits to jump on his second YZR-M1 machine, he produced a brilliant lap of 1.47.632 to miss the front row by just 0.004s.
Crutchlow, who has now qualified in fourth position at the last four races, told MCN: “It’s stupid what happened but I have had a problem with hay fever all weekend and at the end of the main straight my eyes are completely covered in water. I actually touched the kerb a couple of corners later because I still couldn’t see.
"Normally by the end of the first corner if I blink a few times it is fine but I was just unsighted and it made me hit the kerb on the inside and I twisted the gas and ended up falling off the side of the bike. It was a stupid crash.
"I could say I made a small mistake by hitting the kerb but I couldn’t even see it, so it was one of those stupid things. I got away with it fine and I will speak to Arai tonight to see if there is anything I can do to keep the wind out of it.
"When the weather is hot you need a little bit of air coming through but already before when I went out my eyes were dripping. It is only an issue at the end of the main straight but we have to be so careful with what we take because if we take one thing it makes us drowsy and if we take another it is illegal.”
The crash wasn’t completely negative for the 27-year-old, who has been struggling with stability issues throughout the weekend.
He inadvertently found a more confidence-inspiring feeling with the front-end on his second machine and he added: “The big positive is I jumped on the other bike and that was better, so I was pleased with that.
"I had no front feeling with the bike I crashed and I wasn’t going so fast and then when I came in on the second bike after I'd done my fastest lap I said the front felt quite good and the front tyre was 22 laps old. If I had that feeling after 22 laps tomorrow I would be happy.”
The former World Supersport champion though admits beating Spanish duo Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo in tomorrow’s 23-lap race will be a tough task, given their superior pace so far in practice and qualifying.
Crutchlow, who claimed a career best second place in Le Mans last time out, said he would be happy to leave Italy with a top five and he added: “It is going to be tough to beat Lorenzo or Pedrosa. As far as I can see they will be 10 seconds ahead of everybody else but we have tried the bike long and short and I’ve been struggling with stability.
"The bike has a lot of movement and I was losing so much in the braking for Turn 1 just through the bike moving around way too much. Me, Dovi, Valentino (Rossi), Marc (Marquez), (Stefan) Bradl and (Alvaro) Bautista are all on a similar pace and it is going to be a big battle for the podium tomorrow I’m sure.
"I’m surprised the Ducati wasn’t a little bit quicker after two days testing and I thought they could challenge for the win but they have done a good job for Dovi to be on the front row and he is a good bet to be on the podium tomorrow. No doubt me and Valentino can challenge them but his bike looks good.”
The Ducati GP13 has tended to fade badly in dry conditions in the second half of races with excessive rear tyre wear, but Crutchlow believes Dovizioso can be a podium contender tomorrow.
He said: “Dovi is clever and we know Mugello is one of his strongest tracks and he is very strong in braking into slow corners like into Turn 1. His bike is fast and he makes some good passes and he is good when he has got guys in front of him, so if he can hang onto them he will be there.
"I will be happy with a top five tomorrow because Mugello is one of the best tracks in the world but I struggle on it. But the bike is working good even though we can’t find the best setting.
"Nobody on the Yamaha is as fast as Lorenzo and I can’t really do much else but I am close enough with how things are working.”