Cal Crutchlow didn't think Qatar top six 'possible'
Qatar MotoGP podium finisher Cal Crutchlow admits he “didn't think it was possible to fight for the top six” in his return race following a tough Sunday warm-up session.
The LCR rider missed the November tests with a severe ankle injury, and struggled to find a strong feeling with the front end of the 2019 RC213V in testing last month, though started to make progress in this area in Friday's practice.
Crutchlow qualified sixth and ran with the lead group for the entire 22 lap, fending off Suzuki's Alex Rins to take third in his first race since last year's Japanese Grand Prix.
“I'm surprised, because after the warm-up this morning I didn't think it was possible to fight for the top six, let alone the podium,” Crutchlow, who was eight tenths off the pace in 14th in warm-up, said.
“But once I got going in the race I felt good and was able to be competitive. My whole LCR team did a great job, we never gave up after a bad winter because we didn't know what direction we were going with the bike because I never managed to test at the end of last year.
“This is the only weekend we've had two 2019 bikes we've been able to work with, so we tried our hardest in the race.”
Crutchlow admits he “should have led” the race in order to keep life in his front tyre, but was unable to after getting “beat up” by Rins and Ducati's Danilo Petrucci early on.
“I should have led. I wanted to go to the front to save the front tyre a little bit, [but] I got beat up a bit the Suzukis and Petrucci.
“So I had to play my cards. I was strong in some sectors of the track, like sector three..”
The Briton faced an uncertain future when he badly broke his right ankle at Phillip Island last season, but says it only caused a problem “two times” in the race, and that the biggest pain he endured came when he was hit by another rider's footpeg.
He added: “I don't like going to the gym, I'd rather ride my bicycle. So my physicality on the bike, my arms felt a bit sore over the weekend.
“Honestly, not to make a joke, somebody hit my arse with the footpeg and I couldn't feel it for 15 laps. But I have no idea who it was.
“But my ankle was fine. Only two times in the race I had a problem. I got my foot stuck on the brake lever, which in the practice happens a lot, and in qualifying it happened a lot.
“In the race it happened two times, so I was very happy with the smoothness I had in the rear brake.”