Smith: We're close to factory Yamaha riders

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Bradley Smith has enjoyed a strong pre-season with the Tech3 Yamaha rider recovering from a January motocross accident to progressively get fitter, stronger and faster as testing wore on. Speaking to MCN ahead of this week's Qatar Grand Prix he admitted that this will be one of the best opportunities for him to get close to the factory Yamaha's.

"I didn't realise how competitive we were to the factory Yamaha's but we were bang on the pace that we needed to be in," said Smith. "We're starting from the same place as the factory team for this race so it'll depend on who does the best job over the next three days to make it to Sunday with the best package. We haven't found anything more than them but I don't think that they've found anything since the test either. Spec wise we're as close to the factory team as we will be all year so I've got to take advantage of that."

Testing in Qatar last week showed the potential of the new Ducati and Smith joins the majority of the field in acknowledging that Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone will start the year as a potential race winner. For Smith this means that challenging for the podium, as he did in last year's race, will be all but impossible and he has set a more realistic goal of finishing in the top six on Sunday:

"Looking at it the top three are a step away at the moment with Marc and the two Ducati's. I don't see anyone at the test that will have anything for them. The pace here is the pace and it's close but 0.3 or 0.4s a lap here is very tough to find. We've made changes to the bike and it feels different but the laptime is still the same. If someone has 0.2s a lap it can be enough but they had 0.4s so that's a big step. We're in the hunt for fourth backwards so being realistic if I can come away with a top six I'll be happy because that will mean that I've beaten a factory bike somewhere along the line. It'll be a tough race for us but I might as well set difficult goals and see how I can go against them."

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Steve English

By Steve English