Cal Crutchlow may only have finished ninth in Sunday’s Aragon MotoGP, but the Englishman’s battle with grand prix legend Valentino Rossi and former 250cc world champion Hiroshi Aoyama was the main highlight of a processional race.
The trio spent most of the race swapping positions, with rookie Crutchlow eventually getting the better of both factory Ducati star Rossi and Gresini Honda rider Aoyama.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Crutchlow’s stand-out pass was an outside move on Rossi into turn one and he crossed the finish line just 0.180sec ahead of Rossi and 0.345sec clear of Aoyama.
“I’m really pleased with how the race went today because I was back inside the top and having a really good and enjoyable fight with two of the best riders on the grid, who have had a lot of success in grand prix racing,” said Crutchlow.
“What pleases me the most is that I could make up for the lack of speed on the straight in the corners because the Yamaha handles brilliantly and my Tech 3 Team gave me a really good bike today.
“But to hold off Valentino and Hiroshi at the end took a massive effort. I think if they’d started the final lap in front of me on the straight it would have been hard for me to slipstream.
“There are a lot of positives to take from this weekend because I’ve got back in the top 10 on a track I’d never seen before and beaten two guys with a lot more experience than me.
“I gained a lot of experience today riding with Valentino and that has given me a lot of confidence for the next few races.”
Crutchlow’s performance moved him up to 13th in the world championship rankings and was his ‘bets ride of the year’ according to team manager Herve Poncharal.
“I think it was the best ride of the year for Cal,” said Poncharal. “Maybe not in terms of the final position, but the way he rode was fantastic. The start was difficult, but he never gave up and what was really good is that he was riding with Valentino and Hiroshi and he would have learned a lot from those two.