Cal Crutchlow left nothing on the table during an ’emotional’ final qualifying as a full-time MotoGP rider.
Just 14th after FP3 meant the Englishman had to take part in Qualifying 1, where he thrilled the LCR team by leading the session and advancing to Qualifying 2.
Fitting his lone remaining new soft rear tyre for the final minutes of the pole position shootout, Crutchlow left the pits alongside good friend Jack Miller.
The Australian thus looked set to provide Crutchlow with a priceless tow, until the Pramac Ducati rider overcooked Turn 1 of their flying lap!
Crutchlow thus did the lap alone, grabbing second on the grid before improvements by others nudged him to fourth. It was still a performance to be proud of, having lapped just 0264s from pole and being the fastest Honda rider.
“I’m getting worse and worse as the days go on with the emotion, which is probably normal,” Crutchlow said on Saturday evening. “Yes, that was my last qualifying session, full attack as a full-time rider, so it was emotional.
“It was emotional obviously when I was leaving pit lane with Jack and I thought ‘that’s it’ sort of thing. And I went for it in the lap. I felt that I couldn’t have done any more and if we’re talking about a one-off fast lap time then I’m fourth in the world at the moment. It’s nice to be able to go for it.”
— MotoGP (@MotoGP) November 21, 2020
Miller acknowledged Crutchlow as they rode out of pit lane together for his final run, but the 35-year-old said it wasn’t planned.
“As you know, me and Jack have always been friends – well, not when he was laying on top of me at Silverstone !” Crutchlow joked. “It was not a plan [to follow], but I knew Jack would go for it so I wanted to position myself in a decent enough place.
“The problem was the idiot blew Turn 1 so much that he sucked me in as well! But I kept on the race track and did not a bad first sector, so I continued my lap. And then he f**ked me by taking the front row off me on the last lap – so that’s it, he’s back in the bad books and we’re not speaking anymore!
“It wasn’t a plan [to follow], but Jack knows I’m the older stateman out of the two of us. He’s got the respect to tow me around because with the old age getting going isn’t that easy. The funny thing is I always struggle on the out laps, and he knows, and he pushed like mad on the out-lap to catch maybe Morbidelli or someone [ahead].
“I was thinking ‘f**king hell I can’t even keep up on the out lap!’ But then I was able put a good lap together to manage at that point the front row and what turned out to be fourth position.”
— MotoGP (@MotoGP) November 21, 2020
LCR boss Lucio Cecchinello, who recently described the Englishman as a ‘gladiator’, was waiting to congratulate Crutchlow with the ‘P1’ pit board after he topped Qualifying 1.
“That makes it look like I haven’t tried in all the other races!” Crutchlow smiled. “Obviously I went for it in Aragon as well, on the front row, and when I get the feeling with the bike where I’m able to push I’m in a good way.
“It was nice to see Beefy and the boys in the garage after Qualifying 2 more than Qualifying 1. I only really have myself to blame not to have the front row because I made a mistake at Turn 11. I nearly highsided down the hill and lost 2 tenths. So that was my front row and maybe a chance for pole
“Anyway I’m happy, I put it on the line today and that’s all I can ask of myself in my last qualifying session.”
Asked if he will be able to sleep tonight ahead of his final full-time race before switching to Yamaha test and possibly wild-card duties in 2021, Crutchlow recounted a late night of partying with Miller, the Lowes twins and Dakota Mamola at Valencia.
“I’ll sleep. I’ll be okay. I could quite happily have a night like after the first round at Valencia where it all went to pieces,” he said. “It went a bit wrong with me, Jack, Sam, Dako, Alex! I can imagine a night like that tonight and then I definitely won’t be on the grid because I’ll still be in bed!
“The funniest part about that night was at 4:45am we half broke into Joan Mir‘s motorhome. It was half open, so we managed to prise the door open a little bit, get in there.
“We thought he was in there so we wanted to wake him up because he’d won the race, but he wasn’t in there so we were trying to find his trophy to take pictures but he must have taken it home!
“It was a good night in Valencia. Nice to have one before I leave, because I’m off home tomorrow night. I won’t be staying.”
Crutchlow said he has no idea of what to expect in Sunday’s race, but is tempted to take a tyre gamble, “because I don’t really like the tyre everybody seems to be using, front and rear, so we’ll see.
“If I can get away with them then hopefully I can hold a good position. The problem is I feel that if I rode the whole race alone I’d be in a better situation than being right behind someone, because we have unorthodox lines with the Honda.”
Repsol Honda replacement Stefan Bradl was the next best RC213V rider in sixth, with Crutchlow’s team-mate Takaaki Nakagami 11th and Alex Marquez – who will take over Crutchlow’s seat next season – 16th.