5 February 2015
Sepang MotoGP Test: Crutchlow 'Honda completely different to Yamaha'
“Where you gain the lap time with the Honda is a completely different area to where you gain with the Yamaha” - Cal Crutchlow.
Cal Crutchlow is making his third MotoGP team change in as many seasons.
The Englishman climbed up the championship order during three seasons at Tech 3 Yamaha, but saw his ascent halted after last season's move to the factory Ducati squad.
Crutchlow found late form on the fickle Desmosedici, including a podium at Aragon, by which time he had clinched a switch to factory class Honda machinery with the CWM LCR team.
This week's Sepang outing marks the 29-year-old's first real test on his new machine after “getting familiar with the team and bike” at Valencia in November.
Crutchlow set the tenth fastest lap time on day one (+1.5s to Marc Marquez) and was in eighth place when he spoke to the media at lunchtime on day two. (Update: Crutchlow remained eighth at the end of the day).
“It was a lot better today but we still need to improve in the braking area and make the bike more consistent because from lap to lap we can see a lot of things going on in the data for no apparent reason,” Crutchlow said.
“For example in one corner we could have a slide and then on the next lap we won't have a slide with more throttle and lean angle. So it's a bit alien at the minute. But I'm working well with the team and the team are working hard and we're trying a lot of different things to try and make me feel a little bit more comfortable. We're taking it very steady but I was pleased to be a lot quicker than yesterday.
“The Honda is a good bike and HRC build a fantastic motorcycle, but it's difficult to ride and it's more physically demanding than any MotoGP bike that I've ridden. I think that it will get less demanding the more that I learn the bike.”
While not prepared (or perhaps not allowed) to make any comparisons to last year's Ducati, Crutchlow did explain the magnitude of the difference between the Honda and Yamaha. The two Japanese manufacturers have won every MotoGP race since 2010.
“[The Honda is] completely different to the Yamaha,” he began. “It's so funny that they both go round the track at the same speed, and they are two completely different bikes. Where you can gain the lap time with the Honda is a completely different area to where you gain with the Yamaha.
“And if you actually ride with them on track, it's so strange, because in one area they [Yamaha] could be 50km/h faster, and in another area we're 50km faster. It's strange to follow another rider on this bike, and looking at the other riders, compared to what I'm used to, it's such a strange feeling.”
While the Yamaha has traditionally favoured corner speed, the Honda requires a pick-up-and-go riding style out of the turns.
“Going into the corner this bike is special! What you can get away with is quite incredible but there are other areas that it needs to improve,” Crutchlow said “You can only gauge against the competitors and if they are leaving you in one area of the circuit that's where you need to improve.
“I think that consistency of rear grip coming out of the corner is nowhere near as consistent as some of the other bikes. This is why you see Dani and Marc pick the bike up immediately. You have to play with the bike a lot more to create the grip and whereas some other guys are at maybe 100% throttle we might be at 50%.
“That will come with learning the bike and if that's how you have to ride it then so be it.”
Crutchlow is able to see the data of Marquez and Pedrosa, but said it is of limited use.
“To follow what they are doing is difficult, because one is almost 20 kilos lighter, and the other wins races and nobody really knows how! To do what he [Marquez] does is something I think only he can do.
“I don't think it's like trying to copy Dovizioso or Valentino, where you could look at the data and see what they are doing. Marc and Dani have completely different styles so deciding on which way to go is difficult because Marc uses so much rear brake and Dani uses half as much as Marc.
“One will have the bike completely sideways, one is quite in line. It's about finding a balance and what I'm happy with. I need to find a way to do more laps on the bike and improve.”
Despite his frequent team changes, Crutchlow said it doesn't get any easier to learn a new machine.
“It's just as hard! As I said yesterday, people who think you can just jump on a factory Honda and you're going to go and win the championship, it doesn't work like that. We know how clever Marc is, and how quickly he works things out, but I don't know any other rider on the grid like that.
“So it's difficult to change to another manufacturer again and restart. We need laps, we need time… I feel competitive, I feel OK, but I'm also not taking any risks. I need to build up and get the feeling, because I don't think I'm the most natural rider in the world, so I have to work hard. It showed last year: I was quite fast, then I lost my confidence, but then I worked again, I built up and I was fast again.
“I'd rather do that and build towards the start of the season than go flat out now, because really, this means nothing.”
Crutchlow was twelfth and eighth respectively as a Ducati rider at last year's Sepang tests.
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