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Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) converted strong weekend pace into a fantastic P2 finish at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, therefore securing a third podium of the season, strengthening his lead in the Independent Team Championship and surpassing 1000 premier class career points – the first British rider to do so.
Crutchlow: "I wanted Dovi and Marc to fight so I could win"
“It was a tough race. There’s no doubt about that,” began Crutchlow, who launched well from P4 on the grid latch onto the tailpipes of the two riders at the front: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). He continued: “I felt good. At the start of the race, I felt fantastic. For the first twelve laps, I felt good but the problem was that the pace was too slow. We had 1.7 seconds over the next bunch at one point but then it came down to 0.1 with Rins because Dovi was slowing the pace down. And he could go fast because he could do 45.8 then he’d do 46.5 and we lost half a second every lap.”
Just like he did in Brno and Thailand, Dovi was controlling the pace of the race which made Crutchlow want to pass the Italian, but a certain Marquez had other ideas: “When I was behind him, I was just thinking about making an attack on him when Marc passed me because what I wanted was for them two to fight it out alone and leave me to do my own thing. Then, when Marc passed me, I thought it’s better to stay half a second back, let them fight it out, I’ll ride my own race and fight off the guys behind.
“An incredible job by my team. An incredible job by Honda. We really appreciate the support and effort that goes into the whole year and this weekend. Now we go onto Philip Island.”
The fluctuating lap times allowed the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders to reel in the leading trio, but two soon became one when Andrea Iannone crashed at Turn 10. This left the British rider having to deal with Alex Rins: “I could hear Alex behind me. He was opening up the throttle about 20 metres earlier than me just because our grip is not like theirs, but we were using the stronger point on our bike, which is the braking,” explained Crutchlow.
Motul Grand Prix of Japan: MotoGP™ Full Race
“I felt good in the braking zones later in the race, but I was happy with him behind me, I didn’t think he could pass me in the braking. We made it to the line. I saw Iannone coming but thought he wouldn’t last because I would have had to really up the pace if he would have started to… he was coming but if he had got within 0.3 or 0.4 I would have upped the pace because I really didn’t want to fight with him because he has a tendency to be able to run you out. Alex, if he passes, you can still hold your line but with the Maniac, you never know.”
This P2 result propels the 32-year-old nicely into the next round of the Championship and the second race of the triple-header: Philip Island. 2016 saw Crutchlow take the win there and he’s confident he can once again pick up a positive result in Australia. But there’s a certain number 93 who - after winning the title in Japan – now has nothing to lose.
“I’m very happy, I’m… not concerned but worried that Marc’s won the title here because he’ll push like hell next weekend because he’s got nothing to lose, but we’ll try our best with him. It’s a circuit I like and I’ve had good results there in the past.”
15 points is now the margin Crutchlow has over both Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) in the Independent Team Championship race. Can that increase on the Island?
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