By Andy Marking
All riders will be under pressure to beat their team-mates during the 2012 MotoGP season, including Britain's Cal Crutchlow.
Crutchlow's first grand prix season followed a similar pattern to Britain's previous MotoGP prospect, James Toseland. Both began well, drawing praise from their more established rivals, before hitting harder times.
Crutchlow began his GP career with three top-tens from five races, before suffering a collarbone-breaking accident at Silverstone. Although he qualified a brave sixth on his return at the following Assen event, the Dutch TT marked the start of a mid-season slump that saw just two 14th places from five rounds.
Crutchlow's relations with Tech 3 team manager Herve Poncharal were strained when he retired a working bike at Mugello. However, the Coventry-born star returned to form in the latter part of the season, taking points in all but one of the last six races and snatching the Rookie of the Year title from Karel Abraham with a best-yet fourth at the Valencia finale.
Crutchlow finished the year 12th in the standings on 70 points, compared with ninth and 109 points for outgoing team-mate Colin Edwards. Toseland had been eleventh with 105 points in 2008 - and also 39 points from Edwards - but over 18 rather than 16 starts, and with a best finish of sixth.
Toseland was then unable to improve his form during his second year, slipping to 14th, and his Tech 3 seat was subsequently taken by Ben Spies.
With Tech 3's Moto2 rider Bradley Smith already confirmed as moving to the MotoGP team for 2013 - Smith and LCR's Stefan Bradl are the only riders with a known '13 MotoGP ride in place - Crutchlow looks to be in a straight contest with new team-mate Andrea Dovizioso for the other M1 seat at the end of this year.
Dovizioso, like Crutchlow, will naturally hope to do well enough to be promoted to the Factory Yamaha squad for 2013, although if Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies re-sign this path will be blocked.
Beating Dovi (third in the 2011 championship) will be a tough task, but Crutchlow did so on both days of the Valencia post-race test, which he finished an impressive fourth fastest.
With Dovizioso, who recently broke his collarbone in a motocross accident, below full fitness for the forthcoming opening test of 2012 at Sepang, Crutchlow is well placed to continue the momentum.