"If Marc jumped on my bike today, he'd still win," those were Cal Crutchlow's words after claiming his first MotoGP podium of the season at Sachsenring.

The former World Supersport champion, who joined LCR Honda from the factory Ducati team, added: "A lot of people in this championship believe if they just jump on a factory bike they're going to be at the front. That is not the case."

Crutchlow had finished a distant second to Repsol Honda's world championship leader in the wet-dry German MotoGP.

It was the third time Crutchlow has finished runner-up in a MotoGP race, having delivered what he believes is his best-yet performance at the same Sachsenring venue in 2013.

On that occasion Crutchlow was also beaten by Marquez, but got to within 1.559s of claiming what would still have been the first dry win for a satellite rider since 2006.

"My best MotoGP result was here, when I finished one second from Marc, who won the race," confirmed Crutchlow, who was then riding for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.

"It was funny, just before the podium today Marc said 'have you ever been on a podium before?' I said 'hey, I nearly beat you here! Three more laps and you would have been done!' [Laughs].

"It was a good race today, but I also still rate Silverstone when I came through from the back of the grid and finished sixth [with an injured ankle] as a good one as well."

Prior to race day at the Sachsenring, Crutchlow felt he was the fourth fastest rider on used tyres in the dry, but the wet conditions meant "I improved two places." Fellow satellite RC213V rider Jack Miller was also in podium contention until he chose not to pit with the lead group, having taken a shock wet victory at Assen.

Yet Crutchlow declared: "[The Honda's] difficult to ride in the wet as well as the dry. The problems are very similar."

So why are the Hondas - especially the satellite Hondas, which have often struggled to break into the top ten in dry races - more competitive in the wet?

"I think it's because we run so little traction control, we can accelerate and control everything manually," he explained. "Some of these guys just hit the thing on the traction control in the dry or wet to accelerate. But because we are doing it manually, we actually accelerate not so badly in the rain.

"Our problem is still always the front in the rain, because we are having to brake so much later. So it's a similar feeling in the rain to the dry. I came in this morning and said 'copy-and-paste what I said in the dry!'

"The bike locks in the same place and does the same things. But I feel we are going in the right direction, with some settings and some small stuff that we are discussing with Honda. Electronically we are getting a little bit better as well.

"But the engine and chassis are still the same, so it's still a difficult bike to ride."

Crutchlow's crew chief Christophe Bourguignon added: "Yamaha maybe have a better engine, Ducati better electronics, but at the end of the wet warm-up it was Dani fastest from Cal and Jack. This afternoon in the wet race again the Hondas were there. So probably yes, we must have some type of an advantage somewhere.

"Cal seemed to have really good drive out of the last corner in the race. We could see he had a run on the Ducati or Yamaha. But also his line was quite good and still [the Honda] is really hard to ride, the bike has an on-the-limit feeling. We'd like to make the bike more friendly to ride, without losing performance."

The five Honda riders were the only competitors to use a slick front tyre, rather than an intermediate, during their mid-race pit stop. Did the Honda's reputation for being hard on the front tyre actually help in the damp conditions?

"We always need a harder front tyre than other people and we can probably generate more heat, which is a disadvantage in normal conditions because we abuse the front tyre way too much," Bourguignon said. "The riders have to abuse the front tyre to stay in front of people.

"I would also say that Marc and Cal - when they go for it, they go for it! They can ride on the limit and they have the talent to do those type of things in the conditions we saw today."

Having been competitive at Assen and Sachsenring, Crutchlow goes into the second half of the season with confidence.

"My confidence is growing with the bike. It's been more difficult this year than last year but I believe the second half of the year will be stronger for me, the team and Honda. I have faith in Honda and belief in myself, so there is no reason why we can't back up some of these good results."

On the technical side, Bourguignon added: "For the geometry and suspension we've started to have a base setting from the Barcelona test. With the electronics, we are still on a new phase of trying a different system and have some margin to improve.

"Also, Cal is not scared to try new things. Some riders are really conservative and don't want to change. We are now as good as with the previous version [of the electronics] and if we can improve we will have taken a step forward."

After scoring just twice in the opening six races, Crutchlow is up to 14th in the world championship, two points from highest placed satellite RC213V rider Miller.

By Peter McLaren


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