Two of Cal Crutchlow's erstwhile rivals in the World Superbike Championship have tipped the only British rider on the MotoGP grid in 2011 to turn around the nation's recent fortunes in the premier class and stake his claim to a prolonged future at the highest level.
Following a meteoric rise up through the ranks – it was only just over four years ago, remember, that he clinched the British Supersport crown – Crutchlow will graduate to MotoGP this season with Yamaha's satellite Tech 3 outfit.
Although many have already forecast his downfall, the 25-year-old himself is remaining humble about his hopes and expectations for his rookie campaign and vowing to listen and learn as he finds his feet – and Castrol Honda WSBK star and fellow MotoGP aspirant Jonathan Rea reckons that approach could just pay dividends.
“Cal's a good friend of mine, and I hope he does great,” the Ulsterman told Crash.net
. “He's got the heart of a lion and he'll give it his best shot, and it will be a good yardstick for World Superbikes as well to measure him, because he was a guy that would run at the front [in WSBK].
“I hope he goes in not setting his goals too far in front because it's obviously a tough championship, and I wish him all the best. I hope he does a great job, and I'm looking forward to hopefully racing with him sometime in the future again.”
Another man who knows Crutchlow well – having ridden alongside him at Yamaha Sterilgarda in 2010 – is James Toseland, in whose wheel tracks the former World Supersport Champion is effectively following. 'JT' similarly stepped up to MotoGP alongside Colin Edwards at Tech 3 back in 2008 – but whilst that didn't work out for the Yorkshireman, he bears no rancour and is hopeful that his compatriot can make his mark where he wasn't able.
“I hope he does well,” mused the double World Superbike Champion, as he prepares for his own new challenge in 2011 with BMW Italia. “He's a young kid with a lot of determination. I know how tough it is and with not much of a disadvantage it can be a real uphill struggle, but in MotoGP if you get an opportunity with a good package and if Yamaha really support him and do everything they can for him, he can succeed.
“I can only wish him well. Cal is a very confident guy and he can talk the talk. He may be criticised if he doesn't succeed, but all credit to him for believing he can do what he says.”
As to the general pecking order in the premier class this year, given all of the high-profile movements – Valentino Rossi to Ducati, Casey Stoner to Honda and Ben Spies to Yamaha chief amongst them – Toseland predicts a closer battle than was seen in 2010, when partially aided by team-mate Rossi's leg-breaking Mugello accident, Jorge Lorenzo fairly strolled to the title.
“I think the only question mark at the moment for the first race is Valentino Rossi's time on the bike and the fitness of his shoulder,” the 30-year-old reflected. “Stoner wasn't consistent on the Honda before, but with the speed advantage that bike had in the last part of last season, he will be tough to beat.
“Lorenzo proved how quick and consistent he can be last year, and even if he doesn't have the quickest bike, his consistency will be there. Valentino will be there, too – I just hope he can get to the first race and not be held back by his fitness.”