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Caught out in Qatar

10 April 2013

In the latest of his 2013 blogs for Crash.net, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP rookie Bradley Smith looks back on an early end to his first premier-class race, and ahead to the inaugural round in Texas…

Just when I thought I was getting to grips on riding a MotoGP bike I found out the hard way that I have still so much to learn.

I'm on the plane to LA still hurting mentally from the crash because I was so determined it was not going happen in my first race, but in the bigger picture it was a another massive step forward in understanding what MotoGP is all about.

I sat on the line in Qatar telling myself I must not crash. I was so careful in the early laps still banging out the same message. Then the confidence started to flow and fired up by the massive progress we'd made in practice and qualifying I started to push on.

It was the first time I'd ridden the Yamaha in race conditions with a full fuel load and on new tyres. When the tell-tale signs began that I was pushing too hard I ignored them because I'd never ridden the bike to this level before. I continued to up the pace when the front end tucked under at turn seven and down I went. I was desperate to get back in the race but one of the handlebars was broken and my MotoGP debut in the desert was over.

I'd not been complacent but I'd taken my eye of the ball when I started to push on and was starting to think I can do no wrong on this unbelievable motorcycle. I will not get caught out again in the same way. It was such a shame because up till then the weekend had gone brilliantly and the whole MotoGP experience was an absolute eye opener.

In practice and then in the new short sharp qualifying session we made an amazing progress. We started to really get to grips with the settings and I was happier and feeling at home on the bike. My first aim was to get into the first ten in practice which I did to go automatically in to the final qualifying session. It was new to everybody with just 15 minutes and be sitting on the third row of the grid with World Champions Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista for the race just continued to make it an awesome weekend.

Everything is so different about MotoGP compared to anything I've experienced before.

The grid before the race was like a Hollywood movie set under the floodlights. Photographers, cameramen and VIPs are milling about all over the place and it did make me nervous, but also loving it deep down. In Moto2 and 125 I liked to sit on the bike with my helmet on in my own little world.

No chance in MotoGP where I had to speak to the television cameras and meet VIPs before getting back into Bradley world and concentrating on the race ahead.

I had just over half a day at home in Oxford before flying out to the States where I'm going up to Laguna Seca in California to learn the circuit on a road bike for a couple of days. In 125 and Moto2 we did not ride there and so it's important before the race in July and I can't wait to ride the Corkscrew.

Then it's over to Texas to join in the fun at Colin Edwards's Boot camp before the second round of the Championship at the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Only the factory Honda and Yamaha teams, plus Stefan Bradl have tested there and so it will be a new experience for most of us. It looks a very technical track and a big challenge.

My big challenge is simple - take on board what I learnt the hard way in Qatar and finish my first MotoGP race.

Bradley


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