Crutchlow fourth after stunning podium challenge in Jerez
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow produced the best performance of his MotoGP career in an enthralling Spanish Grand Prix today to finish fourth after an epic podium battle with Circuito de Jerez specialist Dani Pedrosa.
The British rider finished fourth for the third MotoGP race in succession having been in podium contention right from the start of a 27-lap race that started under grey skies that threatened rain and finished in arguably the best conditions of a weather disrupted weekend.
Having had only one dry session all weekend, Crutchlow's decision to race with the ha rd compound front Bridgestone tyre was fully vindicated and his fantastic surge towards the top three began with 19 laps remaining when he passed Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden in quick succession.
The 26-year-old then embarked on a relentless pursuit of Pedrosa for the remainder of the race, with Crutchlow exerting immense pressure on the Spanish rider to try and secure his maiden MotoGP rostrum.
The engrossing battle captivated a crowd of over 103,000 fans and went right down to the last lap but despite his best efforts, Crutchlow was unable to find a way to make a pass on Pedrosa, who was having to showcase all his talent to keep the former World Supersport Champion at bay.
At the chequered flag, Crutchlow was just over 0.4s behind Pedrosa and only 2.465s away from race winner and reigning World Champion Casey Stoner. He also set the fastest lap of the race with a 1.40.019 on the 15th lap, which was over 0.3s quicker than factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo's personal best.
Andrea Dovizioso also played a major part in an exciting opening half of the race. The Italian rider was right in the heart of the battle for the top three for the opening 10 laps but he was unfortunately unable to sustain his challenge to score his first Yamaha podium.
Dovizioso opted to use the softer compound Bridgestone front tyre and as he pushed hard to keep himself in the hunt for the rostrum places he experienced a loss in grip. Rather than take unnecessary risks he settled for a comfortable fifth place.
Position 4th - Time +2.465
“That was a seriously hard race but I really enjoyed it and I am really happy to have finished so close to the podium. One of the pleasing aspects is that I don't really like Jerez that much. It's a little bit twisty for my riding style and it is only the second time I have raced here, so to come away with a fourth and been within touching distance of my first MotoGP podium is fantastic. The Yamaha YZR-M1 was working incredibly well today and I can't say enough about my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew. It has been a difficult weekend with the weather but they gave me a great bike today and our decision to run the hard front was definitely the right one. I was fourth in Qatar but today I could actually see the winner and there is no reason why I can't be up there battling for the podium from now on. There will still be some races where I won't be that close to the podium but now I know we can be there. I gave it everything I had to pass Dani but there was nothing I could do. He is phenomenal round this track, so I'm happy to have challenged him so closely. But he was the better rider today and it was really hard to stay with him. I set the fastest lap of the race though, so that proves the progress I've made since last season.”
Position 5th - Time +18.100
“It has been a very tricky weekend because I don't particularly like this track and while I am not completely comfortable with the Yamaha YZR-M1 machine it means I struggled quite a lot. What I need more than anything is time in the dry to improve my performance and show what I know I am capable of. I am really happy with my start today and for the first laps of the race I was able to fight in the leading group and this helped collect a lot of information that will help me improve in the future. It was very interesting following Cal because he is still much faster than me entering the corner and I need to adapt my style more to take profit in this area, which is the strong point of the Yamaha. I also made the wrong choice with the front tyre. I wanted to race with the hard one like Cal but I cha nged on the grid to the soft option as all the top guys selected the softer tyre. But from the middle of the race I couldn't maintain my pace to stay with Cal and Dani. It was still a positive experience with everything I learned, so I am looking forward to hopefully a completely dry weekend in Estoril.”
Hervé Poncharal - Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Manager
“What more can you say about Cal? Considering this was only his third time at Jerez and how much experience Pedrosa has riding here, he did a phenomenal job. When you finish right behind a rider of Pedrosa's calibre in his home race, you know you have delivered an outstanding performance and Cal did that. He never gave Pedrosa one moment to relax and there is nothing more he could have done to try and get on the podium. There are so many positive points when you think that he was less than 2.5s behind Casey at the front and he set the fastest lap of the race. This shows he's made incredible progress since last season and I'm sure we are going to be seeing a lot more of Cal challenging at the front in the future. Andrea didn't have the same exciting race as Ca l but I am still happy with his performance. It is clear he needs more time to adjust to the Yamaha, but we know he has the talent and experience to do this, so it is only going to be a matter of time before he is battling for the podium. Today he went the wrong way with the front tyre choice, but that can happen sometimes and it is part of the learning process. He rode very aggressively in the first 10 laps, so it was fantastic to see both Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bikes battling for the podium. We have made a brilliant start to 2012 and confidence is very high, so we are looking forward to Cal and Andrea fighting for the podium in Estoril in a few days time.”