Brno race winner Cal Crutchlow said he was briefly worried his prospects of his maiden MotoGP victory were under threat from Valentino Rossi in the closing stages of the race.
Like Crutchlow, Movistar Yamaha rider Rossi had also fitted a hard rear tyre and began to gain places rapidly at the finish, although the Italian was unable to do anything to reduce the gap to Crutchlow once he moved through into second place on the factory M1.
Crutchlow revealed he survived a moment at turn 10 before gathering himself once more after he realised he was pulling further clear at the front, going on to become the first British winner of a premier class Grand Prix race since Barry Sheene in 1981.
“This is no joke, I looked up at the big screen and I saw Valentino coming, or who I thought was Valentino – but I actually think it was Hector [Barbera],” he said.
“I thought, 'OK, I have to go now because I'm in trouble'. I didn't know if Vale had the hard front tyre, so I started to push a little and then I saw the gap going up. It was 1.5 and then a few laps later it was four seconds. With four laps to go, I nearly had a crash in turn 10 because I changed to sixth gear when normally we would keep fifth gear and then I didn't stop and I thought, 'oh no'.
“Then I said, 'OK just keep calm' and after that I was just cruising around,” added Crutchlow. “Honestly, I made the perfect choice and once I understood that Valentino was not coming or that nobody was coming for me, I just rode around and finished the race.”
Crutchlow admitted the conditions in the Czech Republic had levelled the playing field and said he would've been facing a stiffer task if Assen race winner Jack Miller had been in the race, with the Aussie missing out through injury.
“I know from many years of racing the rain is quite a leveller of rider and machinery. We know in MotoGP it's difficult to win on a satellite machine and we take our chances when we can,” he said.
“Obviously Jack a fantastic job in Assen and I have to say, I'd have had a difficult job on my hands if Jack was riding because 10 minutes before the race he asked me what I was going to do with the tyre choice. I told him I would maybe go with the hard/hard and he told me that he would have, so I know it would have been a battle with him because he would've gambled as well.
“At the end, the worst thing was seeing Lucio [Cecchinello] hanging over pit wall because what do you do? It was quite distracting and if someone tells you to slow down but you are cruising, do you slow down more and let them catch up or do you push? But I fully understand his situation and I'd probably have been worse than him if it was me.”
While Crutchlow has struggled in the dry at times this season with the Honda RCV, he has performed strongly in the wet, but the English rider says the bike is gradually improving overall race by race.
“The Honda is getting better and better and race by race, we are working harder and harder with them as a satellite team and we are coming a little stronger with the electronics. We understand the bike but as you can see from the TV we are at our limit in the dry but we can push a little bit more in the wet.”