Bradley Smith has good reason to be optimistic heading to the forthcoming French MotoGP round at Le Mans after an encouraging race and test performance in Jerez last weekend.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider got a double boost in Spain when he claimed his first top 10 finish in Sunday’s 27-lap race.
The British rider then had a positive post race test on Monday when he was able to evaluate a new YZR-M1 chassis to finish 10th quickest on the timesheets.
Smith was almost 1.5s faster in the test session and only 1.185s adrift of Marc Marquez’s blistering speed on the factory Honda RC213V.
The chassis Smith got to assess is identical to the spec Tech 3 teammate Cal Crutchlow has been racing consistently inside the top five in the first three races of 2013 and Smith told MCN that he gave him more confidence and helped him feel more comfortable.
The 22-year-old, who finished 44 seconds behind Jerez winner Dani Pedrosa, said: “I really liked the new chassis and I was able to feel a lot more comfortable. I felt happy at that pace and it didn’t feel like I was risking too much as well. I was much more stable on the brakes and I had much more rear grip and I was closer on race pace, so I can go to Le Mans optimistic.
There are more options where you can put the front of the bike with this chassis. One problem I’ve had is on the brakes and feeling like I am always unstable and then not really transferring the weight to the rear while it has felt like it is all on the front. I was much more stable on the brakes and I had much more rear grip, so the when the tyre performance drops down it still helps you.
I did a run of 10 laps and they were all in the 40s and I went out on tyres that had already done pretty much a race distance. I went from being about 1.3 to 1.4s away on race pace on Sunday down to 0.7 and 0.8y that over a race distance is going to be a big step and that’s what we are looking for because at the end of the day 44 seconds is still way too much.”
Smith’s promising performance in the test came hot on the heels of his first top 10 result after he’d battled for long periods to get by the Ducati ‘lab’ bike being ridden by wild card Michele Pirro.
He almost passed impressive Aspar Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro and told MCN: “It was tough to pass the Ducati even though it was Pirro. That bike gets out of corners really well and I was struggling to get the transfer to the rear and follow him. But it meant that I had to be patient and work it out and that’s all experience.
I stayed with (Andrea) Dovizioso for a long time but I made two mistakes that cost me three seconds. One I ran wide at the end of the back straight and then I ran on the grass trying to pass Pirro round the outside at Turn 4. I wanted to go round the outside and pass him into Turn 5 on the inside but got halfway round him with my elbow on his rear tyre and suddenly realised I was running out of track.
Those three seconds were the difference between having a good race with Dovi and learning a whole bunch and just riding around with Pirro. It would have been a great learning experience following Dovi.”