Cal Crutchlow's maiden MotoGP World Championship season came to a successful conclusion in Spain as he sealed his best finish of the season in fourth, the 2011 'Rookie of the Year' title and the first-ever MotoGP top five result for a British rider.
The Tech 3 Yamaha rider has endured a troublesome season at times since stepping up from World Superbikes, but flashes of brilliance – particularly in qualifying – has earned him the opportunity to continue into 2012, when the series switches to 1000cc machines.
Coming into the final round of the season keen to beat Karel Abraham to top rookie honours, it was fitting that he would spend most of the race in competition with the Czech rider as they disputed fifth.
Battling for what would be a best result of the season for both, their tussle took on a new dimension when they caught and overtook fourth place Pedrosa on the final lap, though it would end when Abraham fell under pressure.
As such, Crutchlow was able to complete his run to fourth place, making him the first British rider to crack the top five in the MotoGP era. In fact, you have to go back to Jeremy McWilliams's third place finish in the 2000 500cc British Grand Prix for a better British result in the premier class.
“That was a pretty dramatic way to finish the season and I am obviously thrilled to win the Rookie of the Year title,” he said. “But I'm equally happy to have finished in fourth place because that was an incredibly difficult race. I'm not sure what happened at the first corner but I came out of it in sixth place and just pushed as hard as I could.
“It was a really intense battle with Karel right to the end and both of us were giving it everything we had. The track was so greasy it felt like you could crash so easily and when the rain started getting heavier I just got my head down again and kept pushing.
“I started to catch Dani really fast and I wasn't sure if he had a problem or whether I was pushing too hard. I slowed down because of that and Karel caught me back up, so it came down to the last lap and he obviously made a small mistake. “He hit me from behind but I managed to stay on and to finish the season with my best ever result is a great way to start planning for 2012.”
Looking ahead to 2012, when Crutchlow will welcome a new team-mate in Andrea Dovizioso, the former World Supersport Champion is looking forward to the challenge of the 1000cc Yamaha.
“This year has been an incredible learning experience and we have a lot to work on for next season, but I feel confident I can make the step to the next level. I can hold my held up high and now I am looking forward to getting my first experience of the Yamaha 1000cc bike on Tuesday.”