Eighth position on the timesheets and outpaced by Aleix Espargaro’s new Open class FTR-Yamaha suggests this week’s Sepang MotoGP test was a tough affair for British rider Bradley Smith.
Nothing could be further from the truth though, as the 23-year-old dedicated the majority of his time on track to refining race settings rather than chasing an outright fast lap time.
It was a strategy that paid off, with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider satisfied with his analysis of new generation Bridgestone tyres and crucial assessment of fuel consumption now tank capacity has fallen from 21 to 20 litres for 2014.
Smith, who is preparing for his second season in MotoGP, set a best time of 2.00.603 to finish marginally ahead of new teammate Pol Espargaro and just over one second away from the blistering pace set by current champion Marc Marquez.
Smith told MCN: “We decided to go away from searching for a lap time and decided to go more for trying to make the new generation Bridgestone tyres work. We set-up the bike with the old tyre and then found out the new generation is probably going to be the way forward. At the moment I am not chucking in any soft tyres because I know that the hard is probably going to be the race tyre. I’ve been working with a high fuel level too with weight distribution and moving me around on the bike because that was our weakest area last year. Looking at the timesheets it doesn’t look particularly great but we can all ride around with no fuel and a soft tyre.”
Explaining where the new spec Bridgestone hard rear tyre has changed compared to the 2013 version, Smith said: “It has a few things with it to control temperature, especially in Malaysia to make sure it stays more within the operating temperature that Bridgestone obviously want. It reacts a bit different but it is more consistent over race distance. It might not give you the ultimate performance but it will give you longevity. That’s great for a place like this where there have been two massive drops from the tyres in the past. We are only seeing one now and a smaller one that what we are used to.”
Jorge Lorenzo was critical of the new hard tyre and said at times it had so much wheelspin it felt like he was riding in the wet.
And Smith added: “I’m in the same boat but that is the direction that will be forced upon us, so I am just trying to make it work as best as I can. It is working better with the Honda right now and we can see they don’t have any problems but it just means we have to revamp the setting we’ve used for the last year and try something different and it is never fun to do. Jorge obviously had a bike working in the range he liked and now he has got to change everything to make this tyre work. But we just have to make the setting better because from the next test that is going to be the only hard tyre that will be available.”
One crucial area of development for Yamaha in the winter has been keeping the same level of performance as last year with the new 20-litre fuel regulations.
Smith said Yamaha had achieved that after he embarked on distance runs of 15 and 13 laps on the final two days in searing heat in Kuala Lumpur.
“I don’t think we have lost any performance. We tried lots of different strategies, working out what more power does and get an idea of what we lose with different strategies. I don’t think it will be far away from the power and the throttle response we had last year and with my race simulation I am not too worried about it at all. I did 15-laps on day two and everything went fine. We had no issues, so we could put more power into the bike for the last day, "said Smith.
For eight pages of coverage from the Sepang MotoGP test, see the February 12 issue of Motor Cycle News.