Cal Crutchlow came away from a strong fifth place in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix disappointed with himself, after throwing away the chances of battling with Andrea Dovizioso for a podium place when he made a mistake at half distance.
Gambling on a harder front tyre, Crutchlow admitted before the race that the combination of a start-stop track and the aggressive braking riding style needed to get speed from the 2016 Honda meant running on was always a risk – and his prophecy came true in the race.
“I felt good, and we’ve obviously put together a good second half to the season so far, but I lost some points to Dovi when really I should have beat him. I made a really good decision to go with the hard front tyre, and even though I really struggled at the start of the race I expected to come really strong, and that’s exactly what happened.
“With ten laps to go, I thought ‘now’s the time’ – and then went off the track and lost nine seconds! I gave it a go, and I went off the track where Lorenzo crashed and I saved it. The back wheel lifted under braking and the bike started snapping around, so I laid it on it’s side to make the corner but had to pick it up to avoid the grass. I started to go fast again, but I lost too much time in the gravel.”
And while the LCR Honda rider would have welcomed fifth place earlier in the season after a series of disastrous rounds, his strong pace of late means he leaves Japan rueing what could have been.
“Fifth is good because that’s where I qualified, but I think I could have battled with Dovi. We know his bike is really fast, but I think if I was in the fight with him, the front tyre I had means I could have passed him. It’s not a bad job, but I should have beaten the people around me. It was a missed opportunity for a podium, but that’s racing, and we did a good job being where we were.”