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Crutchlow: Big scare... but good fun!
14 July 2014
Cal Crutchlow came close to colliding with Valentino Rossi during the chaotic mass bike-swap at the end of the formation lap for the German MotoGP.
“You cannot believe how close me and Vale were to crashing in the pit lane. Because Vale was leaving and I was coming in. It was massive!” said the factory Ducati rider.
“We were told to come in and swoop [turn sharply into the pit box] - you're not allowed to ride diagonally - so I was looking for my guys and Vale came out right in front of me. How I missed him I don't know and how I didn't crash into the pit wall.”
14 of the 23 riders had pitted at the end of the formation lap after realising the drying track was more suited to slick than wet tyres.
The end result was not only a flurry of bike changes but a frantic rush to secure a place near the front of the cramped pit lane exit, where they were allowed to join the race after the riders starting on the grid reached turn one.
While some called for a rule change to avoid a repeat of the Sachsenring start, Crutchlow - despite his near miss - didn't think the procedure needs changing and believes it enhanced the spectacle for the fans.
“But I liked it! It was good fun. It made it entertaining. I don't think anything was dangerous - it was our choice to come in [and change bikes]. You know the risks. You know what can happen and you know what the start procedure is for that situation. I did it [a pit lane start] at Valencia in 2012.”
Joking about the ad hoc 'grid' that formed at the end of pit lane, Crutchlow said: “I was disappointed that I qualified badly on the warm-up lap - because that was the qualifying session for the end of pit lane start, and I was on the second row!”
The former World Supersport champion continued: “We had a not too bad first lap and got away with the other guys, but me and Andrea couldn't turn the bike and it was as simple as that. We were trying to gain in the other places and taking some risks in the wet braking zones for sure.
“I couldn't believe how hard we were braking with water on the track and slick tyres. I couldn't believe everybody made it through. It was quite impressive. On the second lap I braked at 13 bar [pressure] with slicks in the rain, we only brake at 14 bar anyway!
“So it was quite risky, but we had to do it and the other guys were doing the same.
“I enjoyed it and I think it made it an entertaining race for all the people that came and the people watching at home. I think the race might have been a bit more boring if Marquez had got to the front in the first corner and gone away.
“I think the result would have been the same anyway - certainly for first, second, third and fourth.”
While he relished the unique race start and early laps, the usual Ducati understeer problems soon became a growing handicap on the increasingly dry track.
Nevertheless, the Englishman - who finished second to Marc Marquez by 1.5s as a Tech 3 Yamaha rider last season - at least kept pace with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso. Crutchlow felt that the Italian 'played the game well' in backing off when he realised he couldn't escape, then repassing Crutchlow in the closing stages.
However they both lost out on seventh to Crutchlow's rookie Tech 3 replacement Pol Espargaro, with Crutchlow dropping to tenth after a final lap pass by Gresini's Alvaro Bautista. All four were separated by 1.4s at the flag.
“I got passed in the last laps,” said Crutchlow. “Dovi played the game very well. In the middle part of the race we were battling, or riding around together, quite comfortably I felt. We lost some time to Aleix Espargaro but we were running a good pace. Happy enough.
“When Dovi saw I was at the same gap. He slowed down for two or three laps, reduced the pace by two seconds. Then, he never let me past but he wanted me to pass, so I went past and then he stuffed me the end of the race! He played the game very well!
“In the end we were both passed by Pol Espargaro, because his package was stronger. He was able to turn the bike and go around the corner whereas I think me and Dovi had a very similar problem.
“We had two different set-ups on the bike but the end result was the same. We both couldn't turn and we had not-so-good rear grip. I think the positives of the day are that we finished in the top 10, finished another race and were able to compete a little with the other guys.
“It's not so often that we are that close to people like Espargaro, Dovi even. Over the year we've not been anywhere near, so to be able to battle a little. Obviously the conditions were a little strange, but still the rest of the circuit we were quite competitive as well.”
But there was no getting away from the fact Crutchlow had finished 34s behind Marquez, with the top Ducati of Pramac's Andrea Iannone 23s from victory
“We are way too far off the winner still. It's embarrassing how far we finish away from the winner, especially when this was one of my best races last year. But the positive thing is we can give Ducati the information to be able to take away to see if we can build something better to be able to compete with the other guys.”
Crutchlow remained 'stumm' when asked for an update on his 2015 Ducati option - the Englishman needing to decide in the next few weeks if he wishes to continue at the Italian team.
“I'm sure we'll know something soon.”
Both Crutchlow and Dovizioso have been linked with the returning Suzuki team, while Iannone is poised to fill any vacancy that emerges at the factory Ducati team.
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