Bradley Smith ready for Sepang speed rush
Bradley Smith will find out what a factory-backed MotoGP machine is capable of in Sepang tomorrow (Tuesday), as the British rider prepares to kick off his 2013 preparations by breaking the 200mph barrier for the first time.
The long run to the first corner at the Sepang track will see Smith’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine hit a top speed of around 202mph while flat-out in sixth gear.
The Oxfordshire rider’s previous fastest speed was on a Moto2 bike at Phillip Island and Mugello when he logged 174mph.
The huge speed differential is just one of numerous things Smith will have to get accustomed to during this week’s three-day test in Malaysia, which weather permitting will give him his first chance to seriously assess the YZR-M1.
Smith’s debut on the YZR-M1 in Valencia back in mid-November was badly affected by wet and cold conditions And the Ricardo Tormo track’s tight and twisty layout meant Smith was unable to truly appreciate the full potential of having over 250bhp at his disposal.
That will all change in Sepang, which is a long, fast and technical circuit, with a combination of super fast corners and two sixth gear straights.
Speaking exclusively to MCN in Malaysia, Smith said: “I’ve done close to 280kph on a Moto2 bike at Mugello and Phillip Island, so there is quite a big jump. But I am excited and looking forward to it.
"I think riding a MotoGP at Sepang, it is going to feel a lot smaller and shorter. I’ve ridden round here on a 125 and you are sat on the straight wide open just hoping to get to the next corner. I’m expecting everything to come up a lot quicker.
"I’ve seen top speeds into the first corner of 325kph and that’s a different ball game. Braking from that type of speed from sixth to second and making it into the first turn, it is all going to be an eye opener for me.”
Smith will be given time to break himself gently this week, with Yamaha not planning to give him an intensive testing plan or a range of different settings to try.
He will use the same chassis he tested briefly in a rain-hit debut at Valencia before Christmas but he does have an updated YZR-M1 engine, which is believed to be identical to the version used by factory duo Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies at the end of 2012.
Smith said: “It looks we will just have a standard setting in the bike that they have used already and know that works at this track. They have a reference lap time and basically there is nothing new for me to try. It is just a case of me doing as many laps as I can to learn as much as I can.
"I need to slowly chip away and not go crazy on the first day and not be able to improve any further. The more understanding I can gain the better but this test is really a starter.
"I can understand more how Tech 3 and Yamaha work and they can understand how I work and how I explain things. This week is all about getting the ball rolling and enjoying myself.”
The 22-year-old said he didn’t have any specific goals or targets for this week’s test, but after finishing 2.2s off the best pace on his first ride in Valencia, he said he would be happy to be around the same distance off at the end of the Malaysia session.
He added: “I don’t know what to expect in terms of lap times but in Valencia it was quite nice to be within 2.2s of the best pace after only 25 dry laps, so if I can keep that type of gap around a track like this, I think that’s a good place to start.
"By the second test is when I will be looking to start to cut the gap. I don’t have any goals for this first test. The only aim is to learn the M1 because I am a total newbie.
"I rode the bike in Valencia but I’ve had three months off and putting myself under pressure with goals and expectations is not the best way thing to do at this stage.
"The main aim though is to come away from this test with a lot more knowledge of the bike. I need to understand more about how a Yamaha needs to be ridden to its absolute potential.
"I can see there being a lot of overlaying of data between myself compared to Cal, Jorge (Lorenzo) and Valentino (Rossi).
"One of the great things about Yamaha is that the data is open, so I can listen to the team telling me where I need to improve rather the other way round. Tech 3 has a lot of experience and this can help me a lot.”
For Smith's exclusive reaction to the Sepang test in Malaysia, see the February 13 issue of MCN.