WSB Season Review
WSB Season Review | YZF-R1 rider Crutchlow ranks 5th and named Rookie of the Year
Cal Crutchlow won the 2009 World Supersport Championship as a rookie and was immediately in the spotlight as a promising new rider who appeared out of nowhere. This year he moved up to the World Superbike Championship (WSB), and although he didn't manage to repeat Ben Spies' performance of last year, he finished his first year in WSB ranked in fifth place. Crutchlow's performance in this tough arena was actually more impressive than that result suggests. One of the great talents of today, he shows tremendous potential for the future.
The Yamaha Sterilgarda World Superbike Team fielded Cal Crutchlow and James Toseland as riders for the 2010 World Superbike Championship (WSB) series on the YZF-R1 machine.
Last season, Crutchlow debuted for Yamaha in the World Supersport Championship (600cc class) and won the title. In recognition of the strong potential this demonstrated, he was offered a seat this season in the WSB. Unlike last year, when nearly all the circuits were new to him, this year it would have been reasonable for him to concentrate on getting to know the new machine. With many veterans who have been in this class for several years as well as a number of former MotoGP riders, it was never going to be an easy environment for a rookie to compete in. Under these challenging conditions, he was forced to retire from a few races due to crashes and other mishaps, but when he got going he showed himself to be a brilliant talent capable of matching his rivals easily. In a total of 13 rounds and 26 races, he gave sterling performances, scoring three first places, six pole positions, and ten podium finishes. This earned him the title of Rookie of the Year. He was held to fifth in the season ranking, but a string of impressive races clearly won Crutchlow a place among the world's top riders.
Toseland meanwhile is a rider who competed in MotoGP until last season. Drawing on the experience he gained competing in the premier class, he showed strong competitiveness in a variety of races. Nevertheless, it was also a season of sharp ups and downs, with a large number of crashes and other upsets. In the total of 26 races, he had two second places and two third places and thus stood on the winners' podium four times. On the other hand, he had to retire from nine races, thus ending the season ranked ninth.
The rookie storms ahead in second race after debut
The opening round of the season began on February 28 at Australia's Phillip Island. This first race of the new season brought a very grim result for the Yamaha Sterilgarda team. In the first race, both Crutchlow and Toseland had early crashes and retired from the race. In the second race, too, trouble with machine settings held them back to ninth and tenth place, respectively. At this stage, both of them looked to be facing a whole lot of difficulties.
At the second round in Portugal around one month later, Crutchlow put on a magnificent display of riding. Beginning in pole position, he fought for first place with Max Biaggi (Aprilia) and Leon Haslam (Suzuki). In the first race, he took a tumble while running in third place with three laps to go. In the second race, he was vying with the leaders from the outset, and at the end of a hard struggle at close quarters, he passed the checkered flag in third place for his first podium finish in the WSB. Boosted by this performance, Crutchlow struck an optimistic tone after the race. "If we can continue doing a good job and getting the success we were starting to experience, it'll be a good season. Let's keep the ball rolling," he said.
Crutchlow's second appearance on the winners' podium came three rounds later at the fifth round in Italy. In second position after the qualifying rounds, he found himself chasing Biaggi and Haslam in the race as he had in round two. Early on, he fell back to fifth place for a time. But by the third lap recovered to third position. At this point, together with his teammate Toseland who had moved up to fourth place, he caught up with Haslam and took out after the leader, Biaggi. In the end, Toseland moved up into second place, with Crutchlow 0.05 seconds behind in third. The gap between Biaggi and Toseland was 0.247 seconds. That race, in which the two members of the Yamaha Sterilgarda World Superbike Team stood side by side on the podium, also delivered proof of how competitive the YZF-R1 had become. Not surprisingly, a good result was also expected in the second race, but it was not to be. Toseland was clipped by another bike and Crutchlow had his oil cooler damaged by a stone thrown up by another bike. Both were forced to retire from the race after coming off their bikes.
Frustrated energy in mid-season
From the sixth round on, Crutchlow continued to impress with his speed, winning pole positions and fastest laps. At the seventh round in the US, he stood out by recording the fastest speed of any competing machine at 311km/h, and in the second race he won his third podium finish of the season, gradually establishing himself in the top flight of riders.
However, he was forced to recognize that speed does not always lead to a good result. From the sixth round to the ninth, although he had two third places and two fourth places, there were several disappointing races where he was slow off the mark, slipped down through the field, and finally crashed in a desperate attempt to regain position. He faced a major ordeal particularly at the ninth round in the Czech Republic, where a mistaken choice of tires forced him to make a pitstop in the middle of the race. After changing tires and returning to the circuit, he recovered enough to record the fastest lap. This wasn't enough to make up for the lost time, however, as he ended the race in 14th position.
During this mid-season period, Crutchlow displayed unassailable speed. Nevertheless, for a number of different reasons, he was unable to hold a stable position, and at the close of the ninth round he stood only ninth in the season ranking.
Double win kicks off a winning streak
The tenth round in the UK was a home race for Crutchlow. Here, backed by the cheers of the home fans, Crutchlow won first place for the first time in the series, and went on to win again in the second race to achieve a double win. Showing unstoppable speed, he swept the board with pole position, first place in both races, and fastest lap. At the same time, he moved up the series ranking to fifth place in a single leap. Throughout the week, his form held good, and he showed that experience had taught him how to 'keep the ball rolling' as he had said he hoped to at the beginning of the season.
This was the beginning of a winning streak for Crutchlow. In the four rounds and eight races between the round ten and the final round, he showed fantastic form, winning first place three times, second place once, and third place twice. Compared to his inconsistency in the first half of the season, it was clearly evident that an evolution had taken place in his riding. In the eleventh round, he failed to make a mark in the qualifying rounds and started off in the bottom half of the field, but achieved third place and fourth place. In the first race of the twelfth round, he ran off the track while overtaking and finished tenth. In the second race he made up for this by finishing third, gaining his eighth podium finish this season. Then, in the thirteenth and last round of the season in France, he again triumphed over his rivals by bagging pole position and then taking first place and fastest lap in the first race. He then took second place in the second race and he wrapped up the season with a satisfying result to finish ranked fifth.
Crutchlow is to participate in MotoGP from next season "This means we've reached one of our targets as a team to nurture and bring new talent through to MotoGP," commented Yamaha Motor Europe Racing Manager Laurens Klein Koerkamp after the last race, with a mixture of satisfaction and reluctant sadness.
Meanwhile, Toseland's season had run the opposite of Crutchlow's. He displayed his true potential at the start of the season, taking his first podium finish in the third round in Spain. In the following fourth round in the Netherlands he also showed steadily improving form, coming second in the first race and third in the second race. But after he injured his neck in a fall in the second race of the fifth round, things began to go awry. In both technical settings and riding performance, he often found himself desperately trying to make up for lost ground. Races under difficult conditions led to crashes and other trouble, and the more he struggled the worse things became for him. Finally, Toseland ended up retiring from both of the last two rounds, making this an extremely frustrating season for him.