Crutchlow and Smith explain qualifying slump
British duo Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith have given themselves a mountain to climb in tomorrow’s Japanese MotoGP race after they failed to qualify inside the top 10.
Crutchlow had only qualified outside of the top six once all season before today’s rain-hit qualifying session but he will start tomorrow’s 24-lap race from a lowly 11th.
The 27-year-old posted a best time of 1.56.125 and was a massive 2.587s behind Jorge Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha in pole position.
Torrential rain that had battered the Twin Ring Motegi earlier in the day had completely stopped by the time Crutchlow and Smith took to the track for an extended 75-minute qualifying session.
The long session was implemented to make up for lost track time as heavy rain and mist wreaked havoc with the practice and qualifying schedule for the second day in a row.
As the surface got drier in the final stages of the session, Crutchlow experienced a nightmare on his last run out on a new soft Bridgestone front tyre and he ran off track three times in just two laps while trying to avoid his worst qualifying result of the season.
He told MCN: “The front tyre tore itself to pieces on the out lap. I don't know what the problem was. The pressure was fine when I came in. I think there is something wrong with the compound or something else because we know what I can do in the rain. I was second in Le Mans and for sure I was finding it a bit more difficult here, but I could have been somewhere on the first two rows.
As I pushed I locked the front and went straight into the gravel. I looked at the front tyre and could see there was something wrong with it, so I pushed again and went through the gravel again and then did it again for a third time. Three times in two laps I was off the track but we don't know why. I'm really, really angry because we are back on the fourth row of the grid, which will make the race really difficult in the first laps. I need to be very, very aggressive in the first laps and make some big passes."
Crutchlow was baffled as to what had happened with his last front tyre because he had experienced no issues with his first Bridgestone front he’d used in the earlier part of the session.
He added: “I did more than 20 laps on the other tyre and there was nothing wrong with it. It doesn't help now because I am 11th on the grid and I'm in for tough race tomorrow."
Smith has also excelled in qualifying in his rookie season but he equalled his worst grid position of the season and the Oxfordshire rider will start from a lowly 13th.
He too encountered an issue in the vital final stages and after qualifying inside the top 10 in nine of the last 10 races, he told MCN: “My first run was really good, even though I started way too slow but ended up in seventh. I had a really good feeling with the bike but then on the last run on new tyres we had a front brake issue. It wasn't working.
I’m not pointing any fingers because we've had a mistake free year part from the engine blow up in Laguna, but it's frustrating because we couldn't improve. I just couldn't stop. There are six hard braking points on this track, so I'm confident that I could have been close to two seconds faster, which would have put me close to the front row, so it is a bit frustrating."