Rookie Bradley Smith gave himself a huge confidence boost in Malaysia today by finishing less than a second behind nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi on the second day of MotoGP testing at the Sepang International Circuit.
The 22-year-old slashed a massive 1.5s off his best time from the opening day to leap from 12th to eighth position in the rankings on only his second full day riding the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine.
After an impressive first day put him on the brink of the top 10, Smith went some way to silencing his critics again today who said he didn't merit a place in MotoGP after a disappointing second season in Moto2 with the French-based Tech 3 Racing squad.
Smith set a best time of 2.01.931 in a 40-lap run and that put the Oxfordshire rider just 1.382s adrift of Dani Pedrosa, who once again topped the timesheets on the factory Repsol Honda RC213V.
But in a major confidence boost, Smith was less than a second behind Italian icon and factory Yamaha rider Rossi and just over 0.5s adrift of British teammate Cal Crutchlow.
Smith finished ahead of Ducati quartet Nicky Hayden, Andrea Dovizioso, Ben Spies and Andrea Iannone and after a morale-boosting performance he told MCN: “Seeing how fast I am and how the gap to the front has been reduced, I am really happy but I’m definitely going to be getting carried away.
"It is great for my confidence to be so fast on such a long and technical track but it is only going to get harder from this point.”
Smith was less than 0.2s behind Alvaro Bautista’s Gresini Honda but said he was still not even close to tapping into the full potential of Yamaha’s YZR-M1 machine.
He added: “I’m still not one step ahead of the bike but it feels better than the first day when I felt one step behind it. It can still catch me out but at least I can think about it and know where I need to be on the track.
"There is a lot of self-control involved and I am always having to talk to myself while I’m riding, so it is still not natural reflexes that I’m riding on.
"A lot of it is down to trusting the bike and having the confidence to ride it to the absolute limit to get the best out of it. I’m not at the point yet and I am still ironing some hesitations I have on track.
"There is no real massive place where I am struggling that much but Sepang is a long circuit and if you lose a little bit in every single corner it makes a big difference. I’m still a little bit hesitant and not being as smooth as I’d like to be.”
For the exclusive thoughts of Smith in an 11-page Sepang test special, see the February 13 issue of Motor Cycle News.
1. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda (RC213V) 2m 0.549s
2. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory (YZR-M1) 2m 0.568s
3. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda (RC213V) 2m 0.803s
4. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory (YZR-M1) 2m 1.038s
5. Cal Crutchlow GBR Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 2m 1.311s
6. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 2m 1.369s
7. Alvaro Bautista ESP Honda Gresini (RC213V) 2m 1.729s
8. Bradley Smith GBR Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 2m 1.931s
9. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 2m 2.110s
10. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 2m 2.379s
11. Kosuke Akiyoshi JPN Honda Test Rider (RC213V) 2m 2.526s
12. Katsayuki Nakasuga JPN Yamaha Test Rider (YZR-M1) 2m 2.701s
13. Ben Spies USA Pramac Racing (GP13) 2m 3.002s
14. Wataru Yoshikawa JPN Yamaha Test Rider (YZR-M1) 2m 3.156s
15. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing (GP13) 2m 3.169s
16. Aleix Espargaro ESP Aspar (ART CRT) 2m 3.251s
17. Randy De Puniet FRA Aspar (ART CRT) 2m 3.791s
18. Danilo Petrucci ITA IodaRacing (Suter-BMW CRT)* 2m 4.284s
19. Takumi Takahashi JPN Honda Test Rider (RC213V) 2m 4.559s
20. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 4.786s
21. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 4.989s
22. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB (ART CRT) 2m 5.028s
23. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) 2m 5.417s
24. Claudio Corti ITA Forward (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 5.721s
25. Yonny Hernandez COL Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) 2m 5.837s
26. Colin Edwards USA Forward (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 6.205s
27. Bryan Staring AUS Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT) 2m 6.898s
28. Lukas Pesek CZE IodaRacing (Suter-BMW CRT)* 2m 21.512s
* Control ECU.