Crutchlow downplays practice pace
Cal Crutchlow made a solid start to this weekend's Qatar Grand Prix with the LCR Honda rider fifth fastest after the opening night of practice. After the session however Crutchlow was dismissive of the results saying that he "doesn't take too much from it as it is only the first 45 minutes of the season. Even so the performance is sure to have settled nerves within the team after a difficult week that has seen major questions raised about their title sponsor following multiple arrests at their London office.
When asked about finishing the day as the top satellite rider Crutchlow said:
"I don't feel it means anything at the moment[to be top satellite rider]. I don't really take too much from it because it's the first 45 minutes of the year. I could be 15th tomorrow for all I know because the lap time is not that strong. Aleix Espargaro is third. No disrespect to Aleix but do you think he will finish third in the grand prix? It's only the first session. I would prefer to have another session tonight. We need to work hard and try to improve our settings. After four or five laps we have a strange feeling with the bike."
That strange feeling was related to brake problems once again. The issue was first highlighted by Crutchlow at the Sepang tests, when Marc Marquez also had a similar problem. Since then Marquez has been able to solve the problem but for Crutchlow it has remained a consistent issue and it's robbed him of confidence under braking because he is never sure whether or not he'll have braking force:
" It's unacceptable because it's been going on a long time and I've had no problems in the past. The problem is that sometimes there is no brake. We are talking for one tenth of a second, but one tenth of a second means you are going 20 km/h too fast. It feels like there is air in the system - there is not air in the system - but it feels like you have no brake lever. Then you have to release the lever and brake again and it starts to work. But you can't do that every corner and for 22 laps of a grand prix. The brake problem is with both my bikes. We need to figure it out. We're trying everything but nothing is working and we're running out of things."
Apart from the braking problem Crutchlow also had a backmarker problem during the session with Mike di Meglio cruising on the line of the last corner in his attempts to find a tow to set a fast time in the session. The issue was prevalent last year in all three classes but has been made a point of emphasis by race control to eradicate this element of dangerous riding.
"It was one of the main points [in the rider debrief] just one hour ago: 'No waiting in the last corner. If you wait in the last corner, in the braking zone, you will be penalised'. The first rider I see is waiting in the last corner 100km/h too slow. It looks like nothing on TV. It looks like he is far away from me, but when you are doing 100km/h faster it scares you to the point of, 'am I going to hit him or not?' If I make a mistake in braking then we are both in really big trouble.
"There is no reason for it. Sure I was angry at the time. I'm just disappointed that already this is happening. I'm not complaining or being a baby. I want it to be safe for the other riders. In the race I don't care. If you hit me, great. It's good fun. If I hit somebody, it's racing. But doing that in free practice is not acceptable. All the riders agreed one hour ago there was a problem. Dovi, Bradley, Vale… All the riders know that in the last corner we don't do this. But he was looking for a fast lap and it's not the way to race a motorcycle I feel."