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Bike Racing: Getting better all the time, says Cal; MOTORSPORT WWW.CRASH.NET.

Byline: By Russell Atkins

CAL CRUTCHLOW has hit a purple patch as he nears the end of his maiden British Superbike campaign, notching up three top-five finishes from the last four races to launch himself firmly into the top ten in the riders' standings.

The Coventry ace stormed to his maiden pole position in the series at Croft last month, a full eight places and eight-tenths of a second clear of his infinitely more experienced Rizla Suzuki team-mate Chris Walker, and in so doing earning the squad their first pole position in almost two years. It was, he is well aware, a definitive landmark in his fledgling BSB career.

"Before the session I had a discussion with the chief technician Pete Jennings about what tyres I should use," he explained. "I wasn't sure about his idea for one pre-qualifier and two qualifiers, but I agreed it with him and I have to say it worked a treat. My first ever front row was a pole position - you can't ask for any more than that!"

That was followed up by a strong fourth place in the weekend's opening race - less than two seconds shy of victory and three tenths away from a spot on the podium - after spending the entire 20-lap encounter in the thick of the lead battle. Cal was lying in the same position in race two until he put a wheel on the grass and went off, relegating him to an unrepresentative 13th at the chequered flag.

"I might have crashed in the second race," he acknowledged afterwards, "but there was no stopping me smiling. The fact is I recorded my first-ever pole position in BSB and finished fourth, my highest-ever placing in a championship race. It was another step closer to the podium the whole Rizla Suzuki team deserves.

"In the opening race I thoroughly enjoyed riding at the front, and while being pipped to the podium was a bit disappointing I think I proved the Rizla Suzuki and I are capable of challenging at the sharp end. I proved it again in the second race before a false neutral put me on the grass and I crashed out of fourth, but at least I was able to remount and salvage a few points. It was a good day's work."

Indeed it was, and more of the same was to follow at Cadwell Park a fortnight later, where Cal bounced back from a 100mph-plus 'off' in practice to seal a second row starting spot - once more significantly in front of Walker and meaning he has now qualified comfortably inside the top ten in eight of the 11 rounds held so far.

"I was happy with my bike and really wanted to post a quick lap," the 21-year-old recounted. "I went into the corner trailing the front brake and hit a bump, which meant I squeezed the lever adding more brake which pushed the front too hard and I lost it.

"Seventh place in qualifying wasn't quite the pole position we had the previous time, but the truth is we lost some set-up time after my crash in practice and my mechanics were up until midnight and back in the garage at 7am fixing my bike. They were the unsung heroes."

If the accident was a minor setback that's all it was, as Cal put any illeffects swiftly behind him to seal fifth place in the first race and fourth in race two - the best combined score of his rookie season to-date.

What's more, it enabled him to climb into the top ten in the riders' standings for the first time out of some 33 competitors with two meetings left on the calendar, and more fired-up than ever to achieve his stated pre-season aim of a rostrum finish.

"I've always enjoyed racing at Cadwell Park," he said, "and without a doubt that was my best-ever weekend on a Superbike. It's funny because I didn't have any expectations and simply went out determined to do my best and make sure I got two solid finishes.

A few riders fell off and I benefited from that but that's racing - you have to finish to score points. The podium is getting closer with every round."

CAPTION(S):

MAKING HIS MARK ... Cal Crutchlow has found some prime form. Picture: Neil Gilbert
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 8, 2007
Words:719
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