Cal Crutchlow feels Honda has made clear progress with its engine upgrades but his front-end feeling is “maybe even a little worse”.

The LCR Honda rider struggled for front-end feeling with his RC213V throughout the 2019 campaign and on starting pre-season preparations he fears the issue remains a problem despite finding consistency between the different chassis he is testing at Sepang.

Crutchlow is working between three different bikes and completed 64 laps on the second day of the Sepang test with his best lap putting him 12th on the timesheet 0.675s off pace-setter Fabio Quartararo.

The British rider is confident of Honda’s engine gains but his biggest complaint still remains.

“My front-end feeling at the moment is maybe even a little worse than last year which is not so positive but there are positive areas of the bike,” Crutchlow said. “The engine seems a little bit stronger than last year which is always good but we need to improve the feeling of the riders on the bike.

“We have to keep working, we have to keep trying to find something. We had big modifications to the bike throughout the day and throughout the night, last night we had some more modifications to improve it.

“It’s been a good job from my team and from Honda because every night they have been here until midnight or 2AM trying to build stuff that might work.”

Crutchlow says he’s suffering in corner entry and mid-corner meaning he’s having to use a stop-and-go style compared to his rivals who can exploit a flowing line to maintain a better pace through the turns.

“We are still not making the corner that we need to in order to be competitive,” he explained. “We can’t flow through the corner, we make the corner way too much like a V which was always the Honda style but at the moment with the Michelin tyres we cannot do that.

“You have to make more corner speed and at the moment this bike doesn’t allow us to do that. We need to improve that turning and that front-end feeling to be able to do that.

“I can’t turn the bike and it seems we have to go slower and slower every corner to go around the corner and we have to park the bike, turn it and go instead of being able to take these more sweeping lines that we need to take with the Michelin tyres.

“I feel that if I could get that 2018 feeling back with the front of the bike it would be a lot easier and we would be a lot faster. If we had the engine we have now with the 2018 feeling then I think we would be able to be more competitive week in, week out.”

Despite his concerns, Crutchlow is still relishing the task of wrestling the Honda to obey his commands given the performance advantages the RC213V has demonstrated in recent years. Crutchlow was the only Honda rider other than Marc Marquez to reach the rostrum last year with a trio of podiums coming in Qatar, Germany and Australia.

“If you are fighting with the bike physically it is challenging every single time you ride it, then obviously it is more difficult but sometimes I quite like grabbing the bull by the horns,” he said. “Ride like a wild man, I quite like that. I don’t always like it, I would prefer an easier life.”

 

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