What a difference a tire makes. Last season in each of Cal Crutchlow’s rider debriefs that I attended, the topic at some point came around to the Bridgestone tire and how treacherous it was during warm-up. Once the tire reached operating temperature, it was fantastic if the rider could keep it hot enough. But until it gathered enough heat, it was flat out dangerous, as so many cold tire high-side crashes proved in 2011.
Crutchlow was one of the most outspoken riders in asking Bridgestone to change the tire design, which they have done for 2012. This year’s control tire warms up much faster, allowing riders to get through the early laps of a session without a dramatic high side, of which we had none in Qatar.
In the 2012 Championship’s first race weekend we saw what this change has meant for Crutchlow. Though in 2011 he showed signs of the pace that made him the 2009 World Supersport Champion, the broken collar bone he suffered in his home race at Silverstone appeared to plague his confidence throughout the rest of the season. The 2012 Yamaha YRZ-M1 is competitive, perhaps more so than any satellite Yamaha in recent years, and together with teammate Andrea Dovizioso (recently displaced from the Repsol Honda squad), Crutchlow battled intensely for an impressive 4th and 5th place finish for the Tech 3 Yamaha team.
What can a satellite team reasonably hope for against the factory efforts? To beat the other non-factory teams, which Tech 3 did soundly in the season opener. I expect the combination of the racy 2012 Yamaha and the new Bridgestone tire will make Cal a force to be reckoned with in the battle for Best of the Rest, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him on the podium if things go his way in a handful of races.
Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blog, Twitter, & Facebook.
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Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved