Bradley Smith’s rookie MotoGP campaign continues to be a baptism of fire after the British rider ended the opening day of practice in Jerez today in 14th position.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider was a lowly 17th in this morning’s FP1 session but he was able to improve by almost a second in hotter conditions during FP2 to move three places up the rankings.
The 22-year-old ended with a best pace of 1.40.990, which left him 1.428s behind reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s best pace on the factory YZR-M1,
Smith’s main focus on track remains trying to be smoother and not as aggressive on the YZR-M1 machine, which took three out of the first four places at the end of the first day of practice for the opening European round of 2013.
Smith told MCN: “This morning was terrible and this afternoon loads better. I must have got out of bed the wrong side this morning because I was far too aggressive, too nervous and too tense but this afternoon was better and I was faster than I went in the test.”
Learning to tame his aggressive style is proving Smith’s biggest challenge alongside hard charging teammate Cal Crutchlow, who continued his excellent start to 2013 when he logged the third best time this afternoon.
Smith added: “To do a 40.9 it feels like I am riding at 70%. I can’t at the moment ride at 100%. I literally feel like I am riding and not racing the bike but that seems to be the technique you need to ride the Yamaha. I looked at Jorge’s data and he is rolling off for a corner while I am still wide open.
He is slowly rolling off to zero. We get to zero at the same point but I am trying to get every last little bit of speed out of it and he is already rolling off. I feel like I am on a Sunday stroll and don’t feel like I can race it at the moment.”
Smith said his mid-corner speed is the same as Lorenzo’s but he loses the majority of his time in the braking zone.
He added: “It is all that transition in using the throttle in the right way to not upset the bike but it feels like I am on a Sunday ride to the shops. You don’t feel like you are getting everything out of it but as soon as I try and get everything out of it I make loads of mistakes.
So it is obvious I need to re-programme myself because I am used to riding in 125s and Moto2. I am not used to riding with 250bhp where you can play with 30, 50 or 70% throttle and you don’t have to be at 100% because it wheelies or unsettles the bike.”
Smith said he feels like he has made progress since he tested at Jerez in late March when conditions were much cooler than those witnessed today.
He added: “When I rode this morning I thought I’d gone backwards. We are making good progress. Lap time wise not as much but I feel a lot more natural on the bike and I am lot more consistent but I am still trying to figure out the Yamaha and I am just riding it wrong. I am still opening when others are closing and it is because I have never ridden a big bike.
Sepang was almost a blessing in disguise because it is so long and so kind of brake, stop, turn and go that the corners don’t really link. Then you come to somewhere like this and how you roll on and off the throttle going into corners plays a much bigger part like it did in Texas. In Texas I was completely lost because you have to link the corners and I was still going from 100% to zero and riding like I was on a rocking horse the whole time.
I just need to slow that movement down and be a lot smoother. I’ve never had to change my style and my approach so much. It is not even about style but everything you ever thought about riding a motorcycle has completely changed.”