2011 MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow overcame a daunting set of circumstances to emerge a happy man at the end of last week's official test session at Sepang in Malaysia.
Crutchlow is the only 2011 premier-class rider without any grand prix experience - fellow rookie Karel Abraham has completed six seasons in 125/250/Moto2 racing - but learning the long Malaysian Grand Prix circuit was just the tip of the iceberg.
The Englishman underwent similar shoulder surgery to Valentino Rossi just seven weeks ago - "I should still be in a sling" - and was making only his second appearance with the Tech 3 team, its YZR-M1 and Bridgestone tyres.
After then putting "a hole in his hand" during a fall on day two, Crutchlow returned to set his best lap of the test during the midday heat of the final day.
Overall, the 2009 World Supersport champion and 2010 World Superbike race winner was ranked 15th out of the 20 riders (including test riders).
Crutchlow was quicker than Moto2 champion Toni Elias (LCR Honda), less than a tenth from Abraham (Cardion AB Ducati), just over a second behind team-mate Colin Edwards and 1.96sec from fastest man Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda).
“From my point of view I'm happy. I'd never been here before, I've got the bike and tyres to learn and I only had the shoulder operation seven weeks ago,” confirmed Crutchlow, speaking exclusively to Crash.net
from inside the Tech 3 pits.
“The bike is completely
different. I don't think people realise how different a Superbike is to MotoGP. Johnny [Rea, rode the Honda] here the other week and said exactly the same. So the main thing is to learn how to ride it.
“Sometimes I'll ride it properly and other times I go back to my old ways.
"In Superbike, you don't brake so hard straight away, because the Pirelli tyre is so soft. But then when you gauge the feel for it, you brake more and more towards the corner.
“In MotoGP you do most of your braking in the first 50 metres, then you ease off and let it run through the corner.