Bradley Smith passes first MotoGP examination

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Bradley Smith passed the first serious examination of his MotoGP credentials when he impressed in wet and dry conditions on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 debut in Valencia.

The British rider had endured a frustrating start to his MotoGP career when intermittent rain and cool conditions meant he didn’t complete one lap on the opening day of 2013 testing in Spain.

The Oxfordshire rider seemed destined for more disappointment yesterday (Wednesday) as heavy overnight rain meant the Ricardo Tormo track was slow to dry, despite sunny and breezy conditions in the morning.

Smith finally did to get to throw his leg over his YZR-M1 to complete 16 laps on Bridgestone’s wet weather tyres.

He set a best time of 1.46.566 and was immediately shocked at how the influence of electronics made the 250bhp feel relatively easy to tame on a wet track after he came from the limited rider aids available in Moto2.

Heading out for his first MotoGP laps on a wet track was a daunting experience and speaking to MCN, Smith said: “It was nerve-wracking. But immediately the bike made me feel comfortable and confident considering it was wet. I was certainly nervous with 250 horsepower in my hand.

But these bikes are so advanced and with technology so far ahead of anything I’ve ever ridden, it doesn’t do everything for you but that’s what it feels like compared to what I’ve ridden for the past two years.”

Smith said he could still get a sense of the power and speed in the wet conditions and he added: “The power was obviously toned down for the wet compared to the dry but it did like to wheelie out of corners and was spinning up a bit. So I got to play with the traction control and a few different maps just to get an idea how it works and understand the feeling.

Only by doing that can I get my head around it and learn as well. The chassis gave a really good feeling too, even in the wet. Some bikes it has to be dry to get any sort of feeling but immediately in the first couple of laps I knew exactly what it was doing and that was nice.”

With forecast rain not materialising, the new surface had dried sufficiently for Smith to get his first chance on slick tyres with two hours of track time remaining.
That also meant Smith could truly gauge the power available while also adapting to the stopping power of carbon brakes.

He was able to complete an additional 27-laps and set a best time of 1.34.538 to finish 11th on the timesheets and he told MCN: “The carbon brakes weren’t that bad. Once they are heated up they are fine but they do have some grab in a couple of places but I didn’t go crazy on any brake points.

I didn’t need to be doing anything crazy. I was really shocked at how smooth and linear the bike is. I expected 250bhp to be a lot more aggressive than it was. I could go out on slicks and there was a lot more power on them with the traction control being less.  The Bridgestone tyres were nowhere near as difficult to understand as I first thought.

The bike does everything really well compared to what I have been riding. The technology of this bike makes it really easy for the rider to understand. Then it is just a case of making it go round the track as fast as possible and understanding where are the key areas to improve.

But it was only 27-laps in the dry and I am gutted that the day came to an end and I surprised myself with what I was able to achieve, so we go into the next two months really happy.”

One of the main issues for a rookie in MotoGP has been adjusting to the specific style required to get the maximum potential of Bridgestone tyres.

Getting them into the optimum working temperature was the key said Smith, who will be out on track again in early February in Sepang.

He added: “The tyres were quite complicated and really important to generate the temperature you need. We didn’t change any settings but when I upped the pace in the last session the bike reacted completely differently. One of the most important things is understanding how to get the Bridgestone tyres up to temperature.

Then once they are up to temperature you have more grip and more feel. I never had a good feeling with the front tyre in Moto2, so anything was going to be better than that.

To be honest there isn’t a lot of feeling from the Bridgestone front but the more you push it the more feeling you get and the more feeling you get the more confident you get. It is definitely a temperature thing because we didn’t change it all between the second and third exit and the bike reacted completely different.”

For the exclusive thoughts from Smith on his MotoGP debut, see the November 21 issue of Motor Cycle News.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt