Monster Yamaha Tech3 ended the Japanese Grand Prix in seventh and eighth positions, with Cal Crutchlow ahead of Bradley Smith. After the race, the Englishmen discussed braking issues and possible solutions for the future.
Qualifying had been a difficult affair, with Smith 13th on the Motegi grid and Crutchlow fairing only two positions better as he struggled his way to 11th place. In Sunday’s race, rookie Smith enjoyed a lightning-quick getaway to run ahead of his more experienced teammate, who later in the race overtook. Later on, both were overhauled by Yamaha Factory Racing’s Valentino Rossi who, like Crutchlow, had struggled with brakes and hence make two mistakes earlier on in the Grand Prix.
“Over the first laps we smoked our brake discs,” Crutchlow explained during a video interview. “We had a problem with the brake; it overheated and meant that only half the disc was braking, so I had to stay behind Bradley for quite some laps to let the brake cool down and I was a little bit dangerous in the braking zones – I didn’t want to cause a big crash, so I had to let that cool down.
“We chose the wrong rear tire as well. Bradley and Jorge (Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing) got it right, using the soft. Vale and I didn’t; we used the hard which is a lot more suited to the Honda. We need the edge grip and we never had it. So, with half a brake disc and not a good tire, that is the way it was. We weren’t to know after the morning practice. Some people gambled one way, some the other and that was just the way it was, but congrats to Jorge because he rode fantastically.”
Despite his frustrations on the day, Coventry-born Crutchlow – who will switch to Ducati Team for at least the next two seasons – was pleased with his overall position.
“I have now secured fifth in the championship,” he continued. “I can’t get higher or lower, so I’m pleased about that. It means we are the top satellite team and rider over the year and Tech3 is doing a good job. I will be giving it my all again in Valencia.”
In the case of Smith, the Motegi race was one of his strongest of his debut campaign.
“Absolutely,” he began. “From 13th position on the starting grid, I was a little bit worried that we had messed up our race before we started it, but I was good on the start and proper aggressive into Turn 1; I got a bit lucky, as nobody really ran wide so I was able to go around the outside and put myself into a good position straight away – it was good, to say the least! Unfortunately, as the race went on I struggled with entry grip in a few areas; still a bit of lacking of experience from my side, probably riding a little bit too aggressive considering the position I was in and the fact that Cal was just down the road. In all in, after a very difficult and very taxing three races on the bounce, to come away with the results we have had has been successful.”
Regarding brakes, Smith also shared his opinions and suggestions:
“I knew brakes were going to be a tough part and something I had to keep an eye on. I really, really like the bigger 340mm brakes that Brembo brought this weekend. I didn’t have any problems during the race and probably prefer them to the 320mm, so I believe we need to look into that solution for next year; from a safety point of view, I believe it is safer to ride with the 340s, so we need to talk to the organisers a little more.”
Championship-wise, Crutchlow cementing of a top five spot is his best since entering MotoGP in 2013. Smith is placed tenth overall, 11 points in arrears of Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden and 19 ahead of Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro.