Three days after losing the tip of his left little finger in a testing accident, Cal Crutchlow was back on track at Qatar for his official debut at a grand prix race weekend.

The British rider had to use a modified clutch lever to ease the stress on his badly damaged finger, but still struggled with gear shifts.

Nevertheless, his persistence was rewarded when a late front-end change to his Monster Yamaha helped him lap nearly 0.5secfaster than during the test.

Crutchlow finished Thursday practice 14th out of the 17 riders, and only half-a-second slower than experienced team-mate Colin Edwards.

"That was not easy at all and being honest, the pain from the finger is really bad and it was tough to ride," said Cal. "The crash was only three days ago and when I took the bandage off tonight, I learned there's some nerve damage where the fingernail was.

"The pain when the bandage came off was something I can't describe, so considering how uncomfortable it is, I'm pretty pleased to be where I am and doing some decent times.

"I was having trouble using the clutch so I modified the lever, but I was still having some problems shifting, particularly at the first corner when I kept going down to first instead of second. That was costing me time but I couldn't do anything about it.

"We made a change to the front-end at the end of the session that we haven't tried since Sepang and it felt night and day different. I was much faster and felt much more comfortable because I felt like the front tyre was loaded more in the corner and I could turn better.

"I'm looking forward to working more with the new front-end set-up tomorrow because I believe we can make another step and hopefully the finger will be a little bit better too."

Edwards finished in tenth place but is confident he can climb further up the order.

"I actually feel really good on the bike but unfortunately I am not quite fast enough at the moment. The number beside my name on the timesheets doesn't look that good but I'm actually better off than the charts suggest," he said.

"I'm missing those crucial two or three tenths but I'm confident I can find it. We just need to get the bike to turn just a little bit better and I'm sure if we can work in that area, we'll find that time I'm losing. But I did my best lap on the hard tyre right at the end, so that gives me a lot of confidence with a couple more changes to the bike that I can be higher up.

"I think a lot of the guys in front of me ran the soft tyre, so the race set-up isn't that far away. I got with (Andrea) Dovizioso on the Honda and behind Valentino (Rossi) and our package is pretty strong, but the times tonight prove how competitive it is going to be this season."



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