After a tough start to last week's Sepang test, MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow rebuilt his confidence with a stronger final day performance.

The week began badly when the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider suffered a nasty bout of food poisoning on the way to Malaysia, leaving him physically weak for the entire second test of 2011.

The Englishman then suffered two crashes on day one, followed by a demoralising 18th (out of 19 riders) on day two, when Crutchlow admits he was "wasting fuel".

But set-up changes and riding-style refinements began to fall into place on the final day, when Crutchlow set his best ever Sepang lap and claimed 14th on the timesheets.

In the process the former World Supersport champion and Yamaha's only 2010 World Superbike race winner finished ahead of three contracted MotoGP riders: Randy de Puniet (Ducati), Toni Elias (Honda) and Karel Abraham (Ducati).

"A 2min 2.0sec was not too bad considering Valentino's fastest race lap last year, on his way to winning was a 2min 2.1sec," Crutchlow told "Testing is different of course, but at least it gives you a feel for how fast the race pace is around here.

"Today a lot of guys set their best lap times in the morning again, when it's cooler, and some of them had tows as well.

"I went out and built up confidence after a bad day. I have no shame in saying I was riding around wasting fuel yesterday. I'd crashed the evening before and was busting my balls to do 2min 3sec and 2min 4sec.

"But then today, after 30 laps on the tyre and in the midday heat, we were still doing 2min 2sec. Consistently. We're still 2.3sec off first, but we're only 1.3sec off Ben [Spies, top Yamaha] in fifth.

"That's a lot better, but we've still got a long way to go. I'd say I'm 50 percent there."

Crutchlow then explained some of the changes that had helped him climb back up the order, and where he thinks the remaining time is being lost.

"We tried a few things with my riding style, but it was more with the bike," he said. "We lowered the bike and changed my position, which has helped me aerodynamically and with corner exit.

"Yesterday I was losing four tenths to Colin [Edwards] on the two straights alone, but now we've pulled some of that back.

"The front is more stable, although I'm having some problems changing direction. The leverage I get is not enough. But we're losing time generally. It's a long circuit with 15 corners. If you lose a tenth in each of them, that's 1.5sec over a lap.

"From the data, I grab a tenth in some corners, then I lose a tenth or so going in and/or coming out at around eight of the other corners. That's where the time is missing.

"Braking is getting a little bit better. Corner speed is a little bit better. Exit we're spinning a bit too much, but looking at the data maybe we're not running the same [parts] as the factory team.

"I know they've got new stuff and we're getting a lot more spin than them. In all honestly, our spin looks the same as they had last year. And their testing times last year were not too dissimilar to mine."

In terms of his present position within the 2011 MotoGP hierarchy, Crutchlow estimates he's just inside the top ten in terms of 'normal' race tyre pace.

"There are five or six guys at the top that can challenge for race wins and to the rest we're not losing that much," said Cal. "The lap-by-lap chart shows that the guys from ninth to twelfth were doing slower lap times than me at midway, and with less consistency.

"I'm under no illusion how hard this is going to be. The transition from Superbike to GP is unbelievable. I'm learning step-by-step, every lap and we finished the test stronger than we had been.

"It's also encouraging to look at someone like Simoncelli [third fastest].

"Last year his fastest lap was a 2min 4sec and he crashed five times in one test. Then at the first test of this year he was fastest, and this week he improved his time further.

"It just shows what a year of experience can do," added Crutchlow, who is starting a two-year deal with Tech 3.

Gresini Honda rider Simoncelli has a factory bike for his second season in the premier-class, meaning that the top satellite-bike at the test was that of Crutchlow's team-mate Colin Edwards.

The Texan claimed sixth overall with a best lap time one-second quicker than the #35.

"I followed Colin a little bit and picked up some stuff, but he's different from all other riders with his lines. Some of it worked with my style and some didn't," said Crutchlow.

"You have to be careful with that, but there's certainly no holding back by Colin. He's helping me as much as he can."

Just one more test, to be held in Qatar from March 13-14, now remains before Crutchlow makes his MotoGP debut at the same circuit on the evening of March 20.

"I'm hoping Qatar will suit me a little more than Sepang," said Crutchlow. "I've only ever raced there once, in 2009, so it's going to be difficult learning the braking markers and riding at night, but I'm looking forward to it.

"We've just got to keep chipping away. I hope the shoulder [recovering from surgery] will be better. It got achy towards the end of this test, but it's coming. I'm going for some injections after this test to get the swelling down."



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