Cal Crutchlow triumphed in an exciting duel with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Bradley Smith in today’s Japanese Grand Prix to claim a hard fought seventh position that secured the British rider the honour of finishing leading non-factory rider in 2013.
With only 45 minutes of dry track time available on a weather-hit weekend at the Twin Ring Motegi ahead of this afternoon’s 24-lap race, Crutchlow and Smith engaged in a thrilling battle in the first half of the race.
In easily the best conditions of the weekend, it was Smith who led the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 charge after he made another one of his super fast reactions off the line to rocket from 13th on the grid into the top six.
Smith opted to race the extra soft compound Bridgestone rear tyre to boost his speed in the early laps and it was a strategy the paid off handsomely, as he hunted down Stefan Bradl for a place in the top five.
A mistake by Valentino Rossi in the hard braking zone for Turn 11 on lap three elevated Smith into the top five and he then rode magnificently to keep hard charging Crutchlow at bay until lap nine.
Crutchlow went for a different tyre selection strategy and the harder option rear tyre kept him firmly in contention for the top six until the final stages when he was unable to maintain a challenge to Rossi.
Crutchlow’s seventh position moved him to 188-points in the Championship rankings and with just one race remaining, Alvaro Bautista can no longer catch him to claim the accolade of being the top non-factory rider this season.
Smith’s brilliant ride to eighth saw him take a giant leap towards securing 10th in the overall World Championship standings, now he is 19-points clear of Aleix Espargaro.
Smith’s impressive rookie season is certainly finishing strongly, with the 22-year-old claiming six top 10 finishes in the last seven races and he finished just over three seconds behind Crutchlow this afternoon.
After a gruelling three-week world tour to Malaysia, Australia and Japan, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team now heads back to Europe for a well-deserved rest ahead of the final race in Valencia on November 10.
Cal Crutchlow – 7th – 188 points
“It was a very difficult race because from the first lap I realised I was having an issue with the front brake overheating and choosing the harder rear tyre was not the best choice. Bradley used the softer tyre and in the first few laps, the problem with the brake meant I was having to focus on not running into is the back. My tyre was good for the second half of the race and I could pass Bradley but when Valentino came through he was a bit faster. We were just missing a few things to be more competitive but even with the soft tyre like Lorenzo, I wasn’t going to be racing at his pace. He really did a great job. The positive is with today’s result assured the fifth position in the Championship, and my target before the first race was to finish best non-factory rider. Now we can go home and get some rest after a tough period before trying to end the season strongly in Valencia.”
Bradley Smith – 8th – 107 points
“I’m pleased with the eighth position. I knew it would be been a tricky race starting from 13th, but fortunately I made a good start and I was trying to push at my maximum right from the off so that I was able to follow Bradl during the first laps. We definitely made some improvements on a full fuel load during this weekend and it helped me a lot to find a good rhythm. I saw Valentino making a mistake at the beginning of the race, so I knew he might come back and I just tried to follow him when he passed me. Today was probably the smallest gap to the other satellite riders so far and that makes me happy, especially considering that we had just one dry session this morning to set the bike up. I’m pleased with the progress we made during the season and this 10th place seems to be safe and now I’m just looking forward to make a good race in Valencia
Source: Tech3 Communications
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