A lack of confidence and a lack of rear grip is combining to make Bradley Smith’s rookie campaign in the MotoGP world championship a tough and painful experience.
After two heavy crashes left him with left hand and wrist injuries in Mugello earlier this month, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider suffered another bone-jarring crash in second practice for this weekend’s Catalunya race today.
Smith initially lost the front-end of his YZR-M1 before the rear tyre gripped and threw him over the handlebars for his third heavy tumble in his last four days on track.
The 22-year-old said he was lacking feeling from Bridgestone’s rear tyre and when asked by MCN to explain why he was having something of a confidence crisis he said: “Just feeling with the bike and feeling like I am actually working the tyres is what I’m missing.
At the moment we are just a bit too lazy on top of the bike and when you come to a track like this with relatively low grip it is difficult. I felt great in Jerez when the grip level was up. The grip helped the bike react how it should but at a track like this we are not making the tyres work.
I just feel like I am riding on marbles. I can’t make the tyre work for some reason. I went out on the hard and rode round without any confidence and put the soft in and it felt a lot better but I need 50-degree track temperature to make the soft tyre work and that’s not normal.
In the morning session I was running soft front and rear and still didn’t feel like I was working them. We know once the tyres work they are great but right now I’m at the point where I can have silly crashes like today.”
Smith has been religiously scouring data from teammate Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to understand where his issues are coming from and he added: “I’m trying to find out by looking a lot at the data to find out what I am doing wrong. Is it brake or throttle application? Is it traction control or spring rate?
I’m trying to figure out what allows them to generate that extra heat into the tyre. My tyre feels like it is cold and not in that optimum area. Maybe I am lacking confidence because two big high-side crashes in Mugello don’t help but both of those were on cold tyres. Right now it is almost like we have got a dead spot where you go into the corner and the feeling just disappears and at that point is where you crash or make a mistake.
I am not feeling at home and I’m a little bit lost. Maybe just a setting change will help and it might be time to go back to a confidence setting and then go back to a race setting. I just need to get some feeling because at the moment it feels like I’m either gripping or I’m down on my arse. These bikes are so particular that if you are riding it scared it knows. It is like a God.”