2011 MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow overcame a daunting set of circumstances to emerge a happy man at the end of last week's official test session at Sepang in Malaysia.

Crutchlow is the only 2011 premier-class rider without any grand prix experience - fellow rookie Karel Abraham has completed six seasons in 125/250/Moto2 racing - but learning the long Malaysian Grand Prix circuit was just the tip of the iceberg.

The Englishman underwent similar shoulder surgery to Valentino Rossi just seven weeks ago - "I should still be in a sling" - and was making only his second appearance with the Tech 3 team, its YZR-M1 and Bridgestone tyres.

After then putting "a hole in his hand" during a fall on day two, Crutchlow returned to set his best lap of the test during the midday heat of the final day.

Overall, the 2009 World Supersport champion and 2010 World Superbike race winner was ranked 15th out of the 20 riders (including test riders).

Crutchlow was quicker than Moto2 champion Toni Elias (LCR Honda), less than a tenth from Abraham (Cardion AB Ducati), just over a second behind team-mate Colin Edwards and 1.96sec from fastest man Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda).

"From my point of view I'm happy. I'd never been here before, I've got the bike and tyres to learn and I only had the shoulder operation seven weeks ago," confirmed Crutchlow, speaking exclusively to Crash.net from inside the Tech 3 pits.

"The bike is completely different. I don't think people realise how different a Superbike is to MotoGP. Johnny [Rea, rode the Honda] here the other week and said exactly the same. So the main thing is to learn how to ride it.

"Sometimes I'll ride it properly and other times I go back to my old ways.

"In Superbike, you don't brake so hard straight away, because the Pirelli tyre is so soft. But then when you gauge the feel for it, you brake more and more towards the corner.

"In MotoGP you do most of your braking in the first 50 metres, then you ease off and let it run through the corner.

"The team are really good at giving me feedback on my riding style from the data: Acceleration I'm the same, corner speed I'm the same, but braking and tipping-in is where I'm losing out.

"I'm holding the brake a little bit longer round the corner. Some corners it's ok and some it's not. The team said when Ben [Spies, Tech 3 predecessor] first rode he was the same, but that's just time on the bike and it doesn't help that my shoulder is weak.

"For the first two days we just left the Yamaha base-setting in, exactly the same as the test riders, and in all honestly that's probably why we crashed. The bike didn't feel like my bike and the front was really high from mid-corner.

"We changed it a little bit today - that was the first time I've changed the shock and fork settings - and I'm a lot more consistent and comfortable.

"My 2min 2.717sec lap is about the same as Ben did in the race [2min 2.772sec] and Valentino's fastest lap on his way to winning last year was a 2min 2.117sec.

"People always go quicker in testing because they do one-off laps first thing in the morning when it's cooler.

"I took longer to get into it today because of the crash and did my fastest lap during the hottest time of the day, at 1pm, when the track feels greasy and when other people were running similar lap times to my fastest."

But that doesn't mean Crutchlow underestimates the task ahead of him this season.

"These boys are so fast it's ridiculous," he said. "You cannot explain to people how fast they are. They are basically the 17 fastest in the world, give or take some World Superbike riders that I think are fast enough.

"I don't like being near the bottom, but I know my own pace and I've done a respectable lap time - in my eyes, the team's eyes and Yamaha's eyes. The second year in MotoGP [Crutchlow has a two-year deal] is when there will be pressure to be up near the front."

Five days of pre-season MotoGP testing remain - three more at Sepang later this month, then two at Qatar before the opening round is held at Losail on the evening of March 20.

"At the next test my shoulder will be stronger and I'll start to work on the bike," said Crutchlow.

The last British rider in MotoGP was Crutchlow's former WSBK team-mate James Toseland, who also rode for Tech 3 Yamaha and finished eleventh during his rookie 2008 season, with a best race finish of sixth.



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