Cal Crutchlow feels his fourth place at the Austrian MotoGP is evidence of Honda’s gains in 2018 but feels further improvements must be found to be competitive against Ducati ‘week in, week out’.

The LCR Honda rider ended his frustrating run at the Red Bull Ring, having finished in 15th place on both previous occasions MotoGP has visited the Austrian track, with an impressive ride to fourth behind the podium trio of Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso.

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Crutchlow feels a combination of improving his riding and Honda’s stronger engine this year was key in Austria but accepts more work is still needed to be able to fight the factory Ducati riders at every circuit – with the Spielberg track seen as a Ducati land having taken victory at every race since its return to the MotoGP calendar.

“I'm riding better, my team's working very, very well, Honda have worked well,” Crutchlow said. “I think that we still need some more to be competitive with the Ducatis week in, week out.

“Their bike turns better than ours, it's less physical than ours, and the engine's strong. But we have to be very, very pleased with what Honda have done this year, because it would have been a hell of a lot harder battle if we had to battle with what he had last year.

“We're a lot more competitive, me and Marc, and I would say Dani, but I think what we have this year is good.

“But they will improve for next year as well, I have complete trust in them that they'll do that. We have to be happy with the gains we've made on my side of the garage.”

Crutchlow’s race was almost ended prematurely with a hairy moment on the opening lap at Turn 4, the first left corner on the track, when he braked on the cold side of his tyre which he says was close to sending him off.

The British rider recovered to fight back into fourth place against Danilo Petrucci and Alex Rins before gradually pulling away from the pair for a lonely race just off the podium.

“I couldn't push at the start with the hard front tyre, I nearly went down in Turn 4 down the hill, because I braked on the left hand side,” he said. “You have a bit of a kink there, I braked on the left hand side, no heat in it, and I nearly went into the wall.

“So then I just thought, you have to build the heat into it, I got onto the back of Dovi, started to make some mistakes.

“I had Petrucci and Rins behind me, but I was happy with them there. Then after a while, they stayed there for ages, and I was not so happy, I wanted them to make a mistake or something, just to give me a bit of breathing space.

“I kept a good rhythm. I rode a good race, I rode a great pace compared to last year on average. We were about a second and a half faster per lap.

“We were pleased with the performance all weekend, to come to a track that I'd finished fifteenth at the last two years, to have a fourth place, the team are happy, I'm happy.”

Crutchlow’s result sees him move to two points off top independent rider in the MotoGP riders’ standings, Petrucci in sixth, with Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco just point in front of the British rider in seventh.

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