The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team experienced a day of contrasting fortunes at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya this afternoon, the highlight of the 25-lap race a stunning career best sixth place finish for rookie Bradley Smith. Smith’s joy at his first top six in MotoGP was countered though by a disappointing afternoon for on form Cal Crutchlow, who saw his quest for a record-breaking third successive podium ended when he fell unhurt out of fourth on lap six.
With a track temperature nudging a sizzling 52 degrees, tyre management became a critical factor on the slippery surface. Smith coped with the tricky track conditions more like a seasoned campaigner than a rookie and his maiden top six was secured when he passed Andrea Dovizioso on lap 23, having recovered a gap to the Italian that was over four seconds at one stage.
Cal Crutchlow’s incredible run of form ended in the early stages when he fell out of fourth while in pursuit of Spanish trio Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez. Seeking to add to his brilliant top three finishes in Le Mans and Mugello, the 27-year-old had further raised expectations when he topped the timesheets in this morning’s warm-up session. The British rider still remains in fourth position in the World Championship standings on 71-points and he is confident he will be back in the podium hunt at the next race in Assen.
Bradley Smith, 6th: “Obviously today was a much more positive result for me, even if sixth position looks a bit better than it really is. But at the end you have to finish the race to score the points and I did that in difficult conditions while not at my 100% physical best. So it is a great result for the team and me. I really focused on the first eight laps trying not to make any mistakes and trying to stay as close to Dovizioso and (Stefan) Bradl because I knew they should have been more or less on the same race pace as me.
I tried to attack Espargaro as quick as possible so I didn’t lose too much time and I managed that. Finally to be in a fight with Andrea towards the closing laps of the race, knowing that he has been always very strong during this part of the race, was obviously something special and makes me feel proud.
And to finish 32 seconds behind the winner is another great step and I just want to continue like this until the summer break. My team did a fantastic job to help me on the YZR-M1 and we really turned around a difficult Friday to have a great result on Sunday and that makes me really happy.”
Cal Crutchlow, DNF: “Obviously I am disappointed that a great weekend ended with a crash and I have to hold my hands up and say it was a stupid mistake on my part. Like last season and again in the first few races of 2013, I have been struggling to stop the bike in the early laps with a full fuel load. I was giving it my all to stay in the battle with the top three and unfortunately I hit the kerb on the inside and crashed.
It was a silly mistake and I am sorry to the team because I am confident I could have stayed in the fight for the podium right to the end. We have got to understand why we don’t have so much grip at the start of the race but I can take some big positives out of the weekend again.
I was on the front row, I was fastest in the warm-up and I was battling for the podium in the race. Now we can go to Assen confident that I will have good speed and be in the rostrum fight again.”