Cal Crutchlow says he is looking forward to battling with Karel Abraham for 'Rookie of the Year' honours after qualifying alongside his rival for the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix.
The Briton currently has a one-point cushion over the Czech Cardion AB Ducati rider, but despite enjoying a positive run to 11th in qualifying around the Spanish circuit, Abraham will start just ahead in tenth.
Nonetheless, Crutchlow is relishing the opportunity to go up against Abraham, a Moto2 race winner at Valencia twelve months ago, as he bids to bring his maiden MotoGP season to a successful close.
“Today wasn't the easiest day and I'd have liked to have qualified inside the top 10,” the Tech 3 Yamaha rider said. “Finding a good set-up with the bike has been quite difficult and the weather conditions haven't made it any easier with such little dry track time. The problems are similar to what I've been experiencing in the last few races. It is hard for me to stop and turn the bike but I'm still confident I can have a strong race tomorrow.
“We'll analyse the data tonight and see what we can come up with to improve my feeling with the bike. I'm sure it will be a good battle with Karel tomorrow. We have been so close on the timesheets all weekend, so it could be an exciting battle for the Rookie of the Year award. I'd love to win it for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team after Ben Spies won it last year."
On the other side of the garage, AMA Superbike champion Josh Hayes – deputising for the injured Colin Edwards – will start last on the 16-man grid as he continues to get to grips with MotoGP machinery, the American getting his first chance to sample the M1 in the dry during qualifying.
“Having got the chance to ride the Yamaha YZR-M1 machine in the dry, all I can say is it is an incredible machine. The power and acceleration compared to the superbike I race in America is incredible. The carbon brakes are impressive too and the chassis works much differently in these conditions than I expected. It is definitely not easy adapting to this bike and the big thing is that I just need more time to understand it.
“This afternoon's session started off on rain tyres, but the track was completely dry and three times during the session you would ride around and big rain spots would start to hit you. I am not sure how the Bridgestone tyres work with some moisture on the track. And I didn't want to push too hard and crash because that would cost me precious time I need to understand the bike and learn the track.
“All in all I am happy with the job I've done for the Team but obviously as a racer you always want more and I'd like to be a bit closer to the regular guys. But I've had two wet sessions, one dry and one session where conditions were a bit dodgy, so the weather hasn't helped my preparations much. I'm really looking forward to the race though and it will be great to be part of the last 800cc race.”