Cal Crutchlow said he has 'no hard feelings' and 'knew a long time ago' that he would be leaving Honda as a consequence of Pol Espargaro's arrival at the factory team, but was 'more surprised at who they chose'.

The knock-on from Espargaro's Repsol Honda deal will see rookie Alex Marquez move to LCR with factory support in 2021.

That is the role Crutchlow currently has - with team-mate Takaaki Nakagami on a year-old bike - and HRC duly wished the Englishman 'all the best in his future endeavours'.

"It didn’t come as a surprise to me. I knew a long time ago - and they [Honda] also knew a long time ago that I requested to speak to other teams. It sort of worked both ways," said an upbeat Crutchlow, now being linked with Aprilia for 2021.

"I wasn’t surprised massively. I was more surprised at who they [Honda] chose. That’s not being disrespectful. The reality is if they chose someone like Dovi I think it would be a different feeling for me.

"But they chose a guy [Espargaro] who has had one podium in MotoGP in [six] years. Then they moved Alex, which is a bad situation for him to be moved out of the factory team straight away. But there are absolutely no hard feelings. I’ve had five great years [with Honda], this being the sixth."

The Englishman's time at LCR has so far brought 12 podiums and three victories, more than any other satellite MotoGP rider during the same period, let alone a satellite Honda rider.

"We’ve made a lot of memories together, we’ve had three wins and 12 podiums. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do that. They also wouldn’t have got them without me riding the bike," Crutchlow said.

"I think I’ve been the only guy that’s been able to get close to Marc in these last four years on the Honda. I did my best. If you look at Jack, Scott, Tito, Morbidelli, Luthi the results speak for themselves. I’ve done a good job and the team has done a good job.

"I believe [HRC] will continue to support me and I’ll continue to do the best I can for the rest of the year."

Crutchlow was speaking after being 6th and then 14th during the pair of 90-minute test sessions at Jerez on Wednesday, the first Official MotoGP laps since Qatar in February.

While Crutchlow said he felt in good physical shape despite not riding a motorcycle "for a long, long time" he needs to get his RC213V working better in the scorching afternoon heat.

"It’s something we need to work on, the turning of the bike like always to be honest. I didn’t have the feeling I had in the morning session, which is quite normal. We need to improve that grip and the middle of the corner.

"It’s nice to be back on the bike and have it moving around underneath you and sliding. But it’s not fun in 46 degrees in direct sunlight."

The Qatar test had ended with reigning champion Marc Marquez hailing a last-minute handling breakthrough after switching back to last year's fairing.

"They [HRC] understood the situation after the Qatar test. It’s better than the first two days of that test," Crutchlow said. "Marc [3rd] reiterated it today, maybe a bit more than me. I felt good in the morning but not in the afternoon."

The enhanced grip from the new larger Michelin rear tyre also requires some adjustment.

"Overall the new tyre is good for the championship. We have more grip. But it creates more problems, especially for our Honda because we’re so used to the bike sliding around the corner," Crutchlow explained.

"Now we have more grip it pushes the front more than what we usually have. We need to try to break the grip a bit to make the bike steer a bit more, we think."

The #35 said MotoGP's engine and aerodynamic technical freeze, combined with the absence of any track action, meant engineers were unable to do much development since Qatar.

"The problem is when the bike isn’t going around the track it's hard to see [the problems]. Engineers need data. They need squiggly lines at the end of the day. It’s difficult for them to improve when we’re not racing, or when the test riders aren’t riding all the time," he said.

"From that point of time they can't make massive changes, but now we’ve started to ride, even tonight, they’ll look at what we did today and work tomorrow. The mechanics, engineers, riders, can get used to working again."

 

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