"Fifth was the most we could have gotten today," was how Cal Crutchlow assessed his qualifying performance at Sepang. A couple of mistakes cost him some time but ultimately with a half second deficit to Jorge Lorenzo the LCR Honda rider felt that it didn't affect his starting position.
"I don’t think I could have qualified on the front row here," said Crutchlow. "I did a 1m 59.6s here in the test but I know the track conditions are a lot worse now than what it was in February. I should have gone faster than what I did but I got held up. It wouldn’t have changed my position.
"Honestly I’m happy enough. I nearly crashed with two of my tyres in the same place as Marc. I had a big moment. I never ran off the track, I managed to stay on. On the last run I used the hard front tyre, which no one else used all day. I took the risk, used it, and went faster with it. We still need a little bit of pace for tomorrow’s race."
While Crutchlow was the only rider who used the harder front tyre during the session he was confident that it will be a tyre that can be used during the tomorrow's 20 lap race. The advantages of the harder front tyre are typically seen with riders having more stability under braking but for Crutchlow the tyre still has plenty of positives.
"I have a good feeling with it. It’s just the bike’s not turning very well with it with the brake and the lean. It’s how long it will last. In a split second it might not last any longer. The other one is soft and feels bad but you have some feeling with it at least. I think the lap time drop with the softer one is worse. We’ll see, we’ll look at the data tonight and work our way through it."
For the race Crutchlow knows that his best chance tomorrow is to be able to go with the leading riders in the early laps. It's a tactic that Andrea Iannone has used well this year as he has been able to fight with the leaders and open a big gap to the next group of riders when the tyres start to drop. Tomorrow's race in Malaysia will be exceptionally difficult physically for riders and as a result being able to manage the tyre wear with a gap to your rivals could be a huge help for riders.
"Hopefully we can get away with the top four and try and race with them. I think it’s going to be difficult for us to stay with them but I have to try. I think my pace for ten laps is strong enough to be able to battle. After I don’t know but that’s what we’ll work on tonight. We need to get the race distance sorted like in Phillip Island. It’s not an easy race this."