19 April 2010
In his latest exclusive column for Crash.net, 125cc World Championship front-runner Bradley Smith reflects on a massively frustrating start to his 2010 title challenge in Qatar - and hopes for rather better fortunes and form next time out at Jerez...
I've just returned from a long cycle ride in the spring sunshine to clear out any negative thoughts about the weekend in Qatar and prepare for my next battle, the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez. We were dealt a bad hand in Qatar, but I'm really pleased with how both myself and the team handled a very difficult weekend. It also made me realise just how much grand prix racing is a team and not just an individual effort. If just one little chink is missing from the chain, you can't win races.
My mechanics were absolutely gutted at not being able to sort out why we just couldn't find any top speed for the bike. They worked ridiculously long hours to try and sort it out, but at the finish it's still a 100 per cent mystery. It's hard at the flyaway races without the race truck, but they tried absolutely everything to find out the cause of the problem. Some people will probably talk of a conspiracy theory about the Spanish team supporting a Spanish rider to win the race from a Brit. Nothing but nothing could be further from the truth, and apart from giving me my new team-mate Nico Terol's bike to ride they could have done absolutely nothing more to try and solve our problems.
Of course eighth was not the place I wanted to start the season, but I'm already taking plenty of positives from the weekend. That finish equalled my best-ever points start to a MotoGP season, and my corner speed was as quick as Nico who made a brilliant debut by winning the race. Also, the way my team guys worked absolutely crazy hours to try and sort out the engine problems plus the support I got from the boss Jorge Martinez and Gino Borsoi made me realise just why Aspar keep winning world titles.
I knew after just a couple of laps of the first practice session on Friday evening that we were in trouble. I came back in thinking the engine was just running too rich, but the problem continued. After that first practice on Friday night my team stripped the engine completely bit-by-bit, but still the top speed was not there. They discovered a carburettor problem which initially we thought was the answer, but still the top speed was missing and I had to ride very hard to qualify just in ninth place and on the third row of the grid.
The race itself was very frustrating after I made a good start. It was not easy just watching the leading bunch disappear into the distance every time we came onto that long start/finish straight. I knew I just had to grit my teeth and get on with it and score as many points as possible, although the likes of both Tomoyoshi Koyama and Alexis Masbou quite rightly made that as difficult as possible.
Immediately after the race the team sent all the telemetry data back to the Aprilia factory in Italy, and hopefully we can sort it before that first practice session at Jerez on the Friday morning. We made improvements to the top speed as the weekend went on and closed the gap to the leaders to around 1.5 seconds-a-lap compared to three seconds in first practice, but an Aspar bike finishing fifth from the bottom in the top speed chart shows just what we are up against.
Hopefully, I'll have my new helmet in Spain after the design was not finished in time for Qatar. Apparently I was in the queue behind a certain Valentino Rossi, which is fair enough! I had to sticker-up a plain helmet, but I'm assured everything will be ready for Jerez.
When you've had a tough weekend all you want to do is get back on the bike as soon as possible, but I'm going to have to be patient until a week on Friday. I may not be able to rectify the points advantage established by Nico and others in just one race, but I have a good chance of clawing some back in Spain. Hopefully we've got the bad race out of the system at the very first attempt, and my mechanics can start sleeping and smiling again.
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