Bradley Smith got his first chance to experience the unique Corkscrew section at Laguna Seca recently when he rode a Yamaha R1 to learn the technical and challenging California track ahead of his first MotoGP race there in July.
Smith flew out to take part in a Yamaha Champions Riding School and the two-day experience gave the Oxfordshire rider the opportunity to ride Laguna Seca’s legendary Corkscrew section.
With a fast and blind approach before a jaw-dropping plunge downhill, the Corkscrew is one of the most famous sections of track on the entire 18-round MotoGP calendar.
And after getting his first chance to experience it on a standard production Yamaha R1 machine, Smith told MCN: “It was pretty cool and the first few times I went through the Corkscrew I just giggled the whole time. It was awesome.
It looks really daunting and even more so when you walk it or drive it for the first time but it is funny just dropping off. It is like when you are younger and you are trying to peer over the edge of a slide at a kid zone and you are trying to see where it goes and you fall off the top.
That was literally what it felt like. I was peering over the top of the screen and then just fell down the side of the hill. I must have missed the apex about 20 laps running but I got there in the end.”
Smith said the Corkscrew was just one part of Laguna Seca that makes the circuit near Monterey in California one of the most technically challenging he will face in his rookie MotoGP campaign.
He added: “It is just such a different track to anything I am used to. It has got loads of character and it is a tough track to learn and definitely a challenge to get round. It is almost like an obstacle course and the Corkscrew is part of it.
There’s definitely a secret to getting round it and there’s loads of undulation, camber and banking and blind corners and it is a really technical place and one that will be tough to get your head around."
Another huge test of skill and bravery at Laguna Seca is the approach to the first corner, which is taken flat out over a blind crest.
Smith said: “Even on a standard R1 I had it spinning and pulling wheelies over the crest at 170mph!”
Smith grabbed the chance to learn the Laguna Seca track before he headed to Texas to join Colin Edwards at his popular Texas Tornado Boot Camp in advance of this weekend’s first Circuit of the Americas MotoGP showdown in Austin.
The 22-year-old said attending the Yamaha Champions Riding School was an invaluable experience rather than turning up the race in late July having to learn Laguna Seca from scratch.
He said: “I just don’t think I could have done enough laps during the race weekend to learn the track or find a setting. Now I know the track in my mind and I know where the slippery parts are and where the bumps are. I got my reference points and while I‘ll still need some time to learn it on the M1 at least in my head I know where I am going and it will speed up that process.
Riding an R1 is good there but I can’t wait to get there on a MotoGP bike. I’m really glad that I went there and I was able to do the laps because I would not have been ready for it come the race. Everything there is so technical and it was important to learn it and get some reference points. It was such a fun track and I really am looking forward to going there in MotoGP.”
To see exclusive reaction from Smith and his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Cal Crutchlow to the Circuit of the Americas race, see the April 24 issue of MCN.