Cal Crutchlow has played down hopes that he could kick off the new 1000cc MotoGP era with a podium on Sunday night in Qatar after he ended practice in second position and just 0.154s behind Jorge Lorenzo.
The British rider dazzled under the spectacular Losail International Circuit floodlights to lead in the final stages of the third and final 45-minute free practice session.
But his best lap of 1.55.456 was eclipsed by factory Yamaha rider Lorenzo, who posted a fastest time of 1.55.302 to deny the inspired Crutchlow in the final moments.
Crutchlow’s superb display raised hopes that he could challenge for a career first front row start in tomorrow night’s qualifying session and then a maiden podium in Sunday’s 22-lap race.
But the former World Supersport champion, speaking exclusively to MCN, said: “Maybe it does make me think about the front row tomorrow night but it doesn’t change a thing as far as I am concerned. I need to get this first race under my belt with a good result.
"I’d like to be in the top six and closer to the leaders than I was last year and I’ll be happy with that. But I’m not going to be suddenly battling to win the race or be on the podium. What it does show is that I have got the potential to run with the best in the world.”
Crutchlow believes he could have gone even quicker on his best lap had he not been slightly baulked as he exited the final corner onto the fast home straight.
He added: “I actually got held up on my best lap as well. Coming onto the start/finish straight one of the BQR bikes went really wide and he came right back into my path.
"I changed to third and fourth gear eight metres later than what I normally do, so that cost me a bit of momentum. I might have been a bit quicker but I’m not worried and I’m not going to get ahead of myself just because I am second fastest.
"I could have done a run in the 55s but there is no point pushing too hard. I had quite an old front tyre on as well with the new soft rear at the end and it was pushing a bit and there was no point doing anything stupid with qualifying and a race to go.
"The set-up is not perfect. I can’t finish the corner off. I enter fine but the bike won’t turn very well and I can’t finish it off to get the bike stood up. So I am carrying a bit too much lean angle on the exit but I know that. I also need to work on my riding style round here.
"I’m braking a bit too late to be honest if you look at my data compared to Lorenzo’s. I’ll work on that tomorrow to see if that helps me get out of the corner. The easier you go round the corner the sooner you can pick up the throttle. But I am going round the corner and picking up the throttle a little bit too late.”