A week on from Australia, Cal Crutchlow cut a different figure after MotoGP qualifying in Sepang. Then he felt frustrated at missing out on a front row start. Here, the 29-year old stated fifth on the grid represented a good return for his weekend's efforts.
For Crutchlow twice escaped frightening front-end moments in Q2, one of which came at the super-quick turn twelve that so nearly caught out Marc Marquez in quest for pole.
The Englishman switched to the hard front tyre on the final run to set his fastest time of the afternoon to ensure he starts between Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone on the second row of the grid.
“I don't think I could have qualified on the front row here,” said Crutchlow, yet to place inside the front-three on Saturday afternoon in 2015. “I did a 1m 59.6s here in the test but I know the track conditions are a lot worse now than what it was in February. I should have gone faster than what I did but I got held up. It wouldn't have changed my position.
“Honestly I'm happy enough. I nearly crashed with two of my tyres in the same place as Marc. I had a big moment. I never ran off the track, I managed to stay on. On the last run I used the hard front tyre, which no one else used all day. I took the risk, used it, and went faster with it. We still need a little bit of pace for tomorrow's race.”
Speaking soon after qualifying, Crutchlow went on to state he feels the hard front tyre is a serious contender for his rubber of choice in Sunday's 20-lap race, as the drop off in grip levels is less pronounced.
Rear grip – his principal nemesis around Phillip Island – was again highest on his list of concerns, as an inability to turn while maintaining speed was costing Crutchlow valuable time through turns eleven and 14.
“I used the hard tyre in FP4 on the last run to see. I think it's possible to race it. I have a good feeling with it. It's just the bike's not turning very well with it with the brake and the lean. It's how long it will last. In a split second it might not last any longer. The other one is soft and feels shit but you have some feeling with it at least. I think the lap time drop with the softer one is worse. We'll see, we'll look at the data tonight and work our way through it.
“It seems we have one bike that's fast on the straight and one that's not. One has a different strategy on the exit of the corners. It's rear grip. To be able to turn and carry the speed in turns eleven and 14 is really difficult at the moment. In turn two and three on the entry there we're losing quite a lot of time. We need to assess that. In the fast lap we never lost too much time. In the average lap we're losing way too much. At times we're losing four or five tenths to Dani in one sector. We'll look into that and see if we can improve there.”
Looking ahead to the race, Crutchlow added, “We can get away with the top four and try and race with them. I think it's going to be difficult for us to stay with them but I have to try. I think my pace for ten laps is strong enough to be able to battle. After I don't know but that's what we'll work on tonight. We need to get the race distance sorted like in Phillip Island. It's not an easy race this, finishing it with race under belt will be good.”
One of the riders in the field to suffer from asthma, Crutchlow again found the smoky conditions that have enveloped the circuit difficult to handle. He was keen to point out that any breathing issues won't affect his application on Sunday.
“I woke up with a sore throat today. I found it more difficult to breathe today than yesterday but it's the same for everybody. I have asthma and had a bit of difficulty breathing. I went and had the nebulizer for a little bit to see if it could help. Now I don't feel to bad but we'll see what it's like when I wake up. We'll give it 100 percent whatever.”