Cal Crutchlow will start Sunday's inaugural Thailand MotoGP from fifth on the grid, as the leading Independent rider.

But the Englishman isn't sure what to expect from the race, especially given the 'strange' upturn in form for Yamaha.

Factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales have qualified second and fourth, compared with 11th and 18th at the previous Aragon round, after setting a strong pace all weekend.

No Yamaha rider has finished on the MotoGP podium since before the summer break, in July.

"I'm happy enough with the second row, but it's going to be difficult tomorrow because - I have no idea what's happened - but suddenly Yamaha has found a second a lap," Crutchlow said. "Something really strange has gone on there.

"Maybe they started to push more because they saw Jorge isn't racing and they know there's a fight for a better spot in the championship! That's my theory, but it doesn't mean it's correct...

"But they've found one-second a lap and I've honestly no idea how. Anyway, it's good for the championship. It's good that everyone's able to battle and they are back up there as well.

"It'll be a long, hard race tomorrow I think for many riders. Because some guys will push at the start but not be able to at the end, and vice versa. Maybe some will push in the middle. I think it'll be a difficult race."


The absent Lorenzo is currently joint fourth in the world championship with Vinales, while Crutchlow is eleven points further back and tied with Pramac's Danilo Petrucci for top Independent rider.

Petrucci has qualified in eighth place, but Crutchlow's sole focus will be on the fighting at the front.

"I'm thinking of the guy that's leading or the guy that's second or third," he said. "We need to make strong finishes and I think we can for the rest of the year.

"But we have to be able to battle at the front because that's where we should be and that's our pace. I'm not just going to ride around in seventh, I think we can be up there."