British rider Bradley Smith admitted he was not happy to be outpaced by Aleix Espargaro on the opening night of testing at the floodlit Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Smith led the timesheets for a long spell in the seven-hour session before a lap of 1.55.386 put Espargaro on top on the new Forward Yamaha machine.
Espargaro’s YZR-M1 is a 2013-spec factory prototype, but as an Open class entry he can utilise four litres more fuel and use a softer Bridgestone rear tyre than Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Smith.
Smith’s factory YZR-M1 is restricted to 20-litres and he doesn’t have access to the extra soft Bridgestone tyre that’s an option to Open class entries.
Smith believes the extra soft tyre has helped Espargaro become the big revelation of winter testing, with his performance tonight coming hot on the heels of impressive fourth place finishes in two Sepang tests in Malaysia.
Speaking to MCN in Doha tonight, Smith said: “You are never happy to be behind the Forward bike and I have to admit that’s a sore spot because I want to be the top satellite rider. Aleix is riding very well but the soft tyre is a big help and gives him that extra bit of an advantage. So not to be on top of the satellite guys bugs me a little bit because that is my objective and I’m not really willing to accept anything less.”
The big plus for Smith on the opening evening was the fact that his YZR-M1 worked well at the Losail International Circuit with no modifications from the recent Sepang test.
He added: “We didn’t touch the bike and it worked really well from Sepang to here and that means why we were struggling there from a tyre perspective, we did a really good job on the setting. I’ve improved my qualifying lap by 0.8s from last year and my race pace is 1.5 to two seconds quicker, so it is amazing what a year does.”