Ducati rider Cal Crutchlow admits he is struggling to regain confidence five weeks after his body bruising crash in the Grand Prix of the Americas at CoTA in Austin, Texas.
Crutchlow fractured his right hand and required recovery time in a hyperbaric chamber.
Crutchlow’s time for the fourth row of the grid was 0.5s slower than Dovizioso who joined record pole-winner Marc Marquez (Honda) and Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) on the front row.
Le Mans is Dovizioso’s most successful track and he has finished on the podium here seven times in his GP career including a victory in the 125cc GP in 2004.
Despite his fastest ever lap at Le Mans, three tenths faster than his previous best on a Yamaha M1 last year, Crutchlow says he needs time get back to top form.
“We have to remember I am coming off one of the biggest crashes of my career (at CoTA) not so long ago and my confidence with the bike is completely not there,” Crutchlow said.
“I am not too worried, I know I can be competitive and be fast but just when I don’t know. We need to find the right setup for my style.
“I am completely in the opposite way to Dovi and if I try to go in his direction I can’t stop the bike.
“We are in a bit of circle with this. Hopefully we can build something in between and the team will look at that overnight. I need to get comfortable and confident with the bike.
“For the moment gone are the days of me putting in a really fast lap like I used to on a new set of tires.
“But the positives are this is the fastest I have even been around Le Mans.”
Braking and corner entry are issues for Crutchlow while both he and Dovizioso say that despite improvements with weight balance that understeer, especially in longer corners, remains a chronic problem with the GP14.
Crutchlow knows he has dig deep to rebuild confidence and match Dovizioso while Ducati works on a major redesign to again make the Desmosedici a race winner.
“I am pleasantly surprised even though the reality of my position is awful my lap was three tenths faster than I did last year,” Crutchlow said.
“I am a long way from Dovi in time but this is all about confidence.
“I am still having problems in the braking zone, the initial braking is better but the end of the braking is not so good. I have to hold the brake on a long time to stop the bike and then risk losing the front tire.
“To be quicker than last year is a big bonus it is just than I am not quick enough overall.”
And despite his impressive qualifying performance, Dovizioso admits that over the 28-lap race distance his chances of adding to his podium tally on Sunday is remote against the factory Hondas and Yamahas.