Cal Crutchlow's former World Superbike rivals are certain he has the talent and speed to succeed in MotoGP following the British rider's maiden appearance in Qatar.
The former World Supersport champion and World Superbike race winner qualified eighth and finished 11th on his debut at Losail with the Tech 3 Yamaha team, Crutchlow drawing particular praise for his upturn in pace over testing.
The first British rider to compete in MotoGP since James Toseland bowed out at the end of the 2009 season, Crutchlow's performance was watched with particular interest by his former Supersport and Superbike rivals.
“I think Cal did brilliantly,” said former Supersport title rival Eugene Laverty. “I watched him in practice and I was really impressed. We had all seen in testing he was struggling a little bit and I was worried that it might be a difficult season for him
“But the moment I saw first practice, I could see the way he was riding and if you know what you're looking at as a rider, I can see he is well capable. He is riding the bike in the correct way and he is not scared of it – Cal never is! He is going to do a great job, especially in qualifying – before mid-season he will be on the front row, without a doubt!”
For Jonathan Rea, Crutchlow's success could be crucial to the future of Superbike riders eager to make the leap to MotoGP.
“It's nice to see someone make the jump and not get swallowed up,” he said. “I know the way Cal rides – he won't be happy just being in GP, he will get stuck in and give it a go.
“There will be days when that inexperience gets the better of him, but there will be days when he's on the top of his game and he will finish in the top seventh, or eight, which is a great result. We need him to do a good job, because it paves the way for Superbike guys.”
Leon Haslam, who raced in the premier category in 2001, was also impressed with Crutchlow's efforts in comparison to experienced team-mate Colin Edwards
“I think he did fantastically. It is difficult for Cal, but the aim is to be first privateer, which is around eighth or ninth, so he had a solid result. He wasn't far off Colin in his first race, plus he had injuries. He has an uphill battle with it not being a factory bike and it's his first time in the championship, but he's got the talent, so I wish him all the best.”
Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes, however, admits he wasn't blown away by Crutchlow's race pace, which saw him slip outside of the top ten.
“Cal made a good showing in qualifying, but I thought he may struggle in the races,” said his former BSB rival. “It's a high level out there and I'm sure his day will come, but I wasn't blown away by his race performance. You only have to look at Ben Spies last year, so I think it was a difficult round for Cal, though I'm sure his injury didn't help him.”