Crutchlow: Honda strong, Dovi playing, Ducati 'massive improvement'

'Marc and Dovi have the best pace. Dovi seems to be playing a little bit, I think' - Cal Crutchlow, Spanish MotoGP.
Crutchlow: Honda strong, Dovi playing, Ducati 'massive improvement'

Cal Crutchlow rounded out a close top five dominated by Ducati and Honda during Friday practice at the Spanish MotoGP.

Although the LCR rider thinks Marc Marquez (Honda) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) currently have the best pace, it is the used-tyre performance of fastest man Danilo Petrucci that illustrates the 'massive improvement' Ducati has made at the Jerez circuit.

"Tyre wear is always big in Jerez and it's who can manage it - or which bike can manage it. Because you have some guys that can't ride from half-race distance, but now their bikes compensate for it," said Crutchlow, whose best lap was just 0.195s slower than Petrucci.

"Guys that have been very poor with managing the tyres, now they are still there at the end of the race because their bike is very good with rear grip or manages the tyre very well.

"So it's hard to know what shape everyone is in.

"Looking at the timesheets Marc and Dovi have the best pace. Dovi seems to be playing a little bit, I think, in all honestly.

"But the Ducati obviously looks very, very strong here because if Petrucci is doing the lap times he's doing with used tyres - he's never been one to manage the tyres but he's able to do the lap time. So it shows that they've made a massive improvement here at Jerez as a circuit.

"So the competition is strong this weekend. But also we know the Honda is strong around here, we know it can fight and all four Hondas being in a competitive position is good for us to be able to take into the night and assess for tomorrow."

Michelin has brought an expanded tyre line-up in response to the unknown Jerez asphalt, extensively resurfaced since November's test, which Crutchlow described as bumpier than expected.

"Turns 7-8 are really bumpy, worse than before. Especially Turn 8. But it seems there's quite a lot of grip. The problem is the braking zones are really unpredictable and you don’t know how late you can brake or not.

"On corner entry there doesn't seem to be a significant amount of grip, but in the middle of the corner and exit there is quite a good amount. But it's nowhere near the worst circuit in the world."

Crutchlow was riding with an aluminium swingarm on Friday, but expects to switch to the carbon fibre version tomorrow.

"Quantity is the issue, if I damage one today I don’t know how long until the next one I can get. Obviously if Marc then damages one, he's going to get the one before I get it. Etc etc... But yeah, you also saw the factory team do that [ran the aluminium in Friday practice] a little bit last year as well."

Team-mate Takaaki Nakagami, the only Honda rider on the 2018 machine, also has an aluminium swingarm. The Japanese was a surprise fastest at last year's test and claimed an encouraging seventh place (+0.225s) in free practice.

"He's way faster in the middle of the corner than all the other three Hondas. But also his package now in that area is stronger than last year," Crutchlow said. "So if we all jumped on that bike I'm sure we'd be just as fast in the middle of the corners. But he's riding very well. It's good to see. It's good for our team, good for Taka.

"We'll have to see how he goes in the race situation, but I hope he has a good result. I think it's about time that he can pick up the pace to be able to be there with the top six at least. Let's see."