Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team press release
Crutchlow lights up Losail with maiden MotoGP front row
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow lit up the Losail International Circuit tonight by storming to a sensational place on the front row of the grid for the opening round of the new 1000cc MotoGP World Championship.
After finishing in a fantastic second position in practice last night, the 26-year-old delivered superbly when the pressure was on in the decisive final moments of qualifying to come close to snatching a dramatic pole position.
The British rider, whose previous best qualifying result was sixth position in 2011, was in contention for the front row throughout an incident-packed 60-minute session.
The former World Supersport champion was able to reel off fast and consistent times on the hard compound Bridgestone rear tyre in race trim before commencing his attack on soft tyres in the final 20 minutes.
A stunning lap of 1.55.505 rocketed him into second position and at that stage he was just 0.090s behind reigning World Champion Casey Stoner. He briefly dropped back to third as Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo upped their pace, but Crutchlow wasn't finished and he pushed his YZR-M1 1000cc to the limit to set an inspired lap of 1.55.022. That was only 0.029s off pole position in the closing stages and by the end of the session he was third, almost 0.5s clear of Ben Spies in fourth and only 0.388s away from Lorenzo's impressive pole time of 1.54.634.
Andrea Dovizioso played a major part in helping Yamaha enjoy a brilliant first qualifying session in the new 1000cc era, with the Italian sixth quickest. All four Yamaha YZR-M1 machines were inside the top six.
Dovizioso secured his place on the second row of the grid thanks to a competitive time of 1.55.857, although changes to the set-up his YZR-M1 machine didn't deliver the improve performance he had been expecting on soft tyres. The 26-year-old was still able to lap consistently inside the top six on both hard and soft compound Bridgestone tyres and he is confident he will be in the podium hunt in the 22-lap race.
Position 2nd - Time 1.55.022 - Laps 22
“I'm really happy and I think we can go into the race now with a lot more confidence. It is a great feeling to be on the front row with Casey and Jorge because everybody is aware of how fast they are. It has felt like a long time coming to get a result like this but this is a fantastic reward for all the effort my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew put in over the winter. They worked with me a lot to help me learn how to ride in MotoGP and tonight is a great pay-off. I'm happy with my performance but fair play to Jorge because he did a phenomenal job and that's an awesome lap time. But I always knew what I could do once we started putting the soft tyres in and I thought I'd have a crack at the front row. The big positive aside from my first front row in MotoGP is my race pace is going to be good enough to finish in the top six and that remains my goal. There's no doubt we are getting the absolute maximum out of the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 package and all I will do tomorrow night is try my best. I'd say per lap I am three or four-tenths off the pa ce Casey and Jorge are capable of, but that's a lot better than what it was last year."
Position 6th - Time 1.55.858 - Laps 25
“Tonight didn't go as well as I had hoped but it was a part of the learning process that we need to go through to improve for the future. I'm not going to be disappointed to finish sixth but I think we were a little bit unlucky tonight. I was a little bit inexperienced with the bike in the crucial final minutes of qualifying and we need to build a better understanding between the team and myself. But that is completely normal and we know we will get better. We made a modification to the bike from last night and unfortunately it didn't give us the improvement we had anticipated, particularly with the soft tyres. I'm sure that for the race we will be quite a bit faster by switching back to the set -up of last night. I'm still full of optimism because my race pace on the hard tyres is not so far away from Lorenzo, but it is vital to start from as close to the front as possible because I think the tyres will lose grip quite quickly. The key will be to ride smooth to save the tyres and then we will see what happens in the final stages of the race.”