Cal Crutchlow believed he could have achieved fourth place in the sweltering Sepang heat had it not been for a front brake issue, after he losing out in a battle with countryman Bradley Smith.
Showing strongly throughout the weekend, Crutchlow was locked in a three-way fight with Andrea Dovizioso and Smith for fourth place in the Malaysian MotoGP race but was encountering problems when stopping his RC213V from the early laps.
“Obviously we all felt the heat was more today,” explained Crutchlow, who felt higher track temperatures were having a negative effect on his machine.
“More for the bike than myself. I felt physically fine but I had a problem with the front brake. I couldn't stop the bike. I had a strange feeling with the front lever especially when I caught Dovizioso. I couldn't then keep consistent brake pressure. I never had the best rear grip, or the best front grip for that matter but I could have managed that for sure.
“I'm disappointed to have not beaten Bradley [Smith] and we should have done that. You saw my pace at the start of the race, I was able to catch Dovi. My tyres weren't in bad shape, I was just unable to brake. I think you saw on TV I nearly hit Bradley. In that moment the lever was coming really hard in my hand and it had no performance. We think it was maybe overheating.
“I pushed at the start of the race. I made a really terrible start, I had a slipping clutch. It's very, very common with the Honda at the moment. Dani's had it a few times as well. I lost all my advantage of qualifying on the second row. The rear grip was not too bad. It was a lot less than the Yamaha, as it always is, but Dani's able to manage it because he's really small. The rear grip was manageable to an extent but then we were overloading the front tyre with the braking problem we had. Going into the corner we were locking the front too much.”
Despite the problems, after a difficult mid-season period, Crutchlow has emerged from the three flyaway races with heartening performances. Sixth in Motegi, seventh a week later in Phillip Island – but less than ten seconds off the race winner – and fifth in Malaysia represent an upturn in his fortunes.
“We think to get out of these flyaway races with three results is never a bad thing. We need to concentrate now on Valencia and also look into why we had some problems to do. No excuses, fifth is a fifth and we need to go away from here and work harder again. I think I could have been a lot closer to the front guys as such and riding my own race in fourth position if I didn't have the problems.”
Crutchlow's race was also notable for his clash with Andrea Dovizioso at the fast turn six, the Italian falling out of contention as a result of the contact. Once the race had finished, Crutchlow sought out his former team-mate to apologise.
“Honestly Dovi is the last person in the world I would have wanted to knock off. We're good friends on and off the track. I have big respect for Andrea. He's probably the cleanest rider in the whole circuit and I felt so bad. I clipped him and it was just a complete racing incident. I went round to apologise and he was laughing a little.
“Obviously I didn't want him to come all the way to Malaysia and not get a result. I'm sorry for that. I'm also sorry I took points away from him with Bradley in the championship, because it was going to be a good fight. As I knew Dovi would, he took it as well as could be. I've been knocked off in the past and I've knocked people off in the past. That's the way it is sometimes and I'm really sorry to Dovi for that.”
On Saturday Crutchlow had felt the harder front tyre was an option for the race. He eventually opted for the medium, he revealed, as he didn't want to risk too much with a strong top-six showing a definite possibility.
“I wanted to be safe. I'm willing to take gambles now and again but with the temperature coming up I didn't know what the harder front tyre was going to do. I was riding around thinking that I maybe should have taken it because that's where it was losing out but I had the brake problem. I wasn't stopping enough in the last part of the corners.”