It hasn't been easy, but MotoGP
rookie Bradley Smith felt he made real progress in adapting to his new Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machinery during this week's second Sepang test.
Eighth fastest (+1.831s) in the opening test of the year, Smith slightly reduced the gap to the front further this week, although improvements by the factory Ducatis dropped him to tenth on the overall timesheets.
After making sure that a sizeable crowd of local fans had all the autographs, photos and signed t-shirts they wanted, Smith gave Crash.net
a rundown on how things stand with just one pre-season test remaining.
"It's been really good. I feel much more like a complete MotoGP
rider than after the first test here," said Smith. "I have a lot more understanding of the bike, my throttle control is a lot better and I'm riding much more like a MotoGP
rider - rather than a gung-ho Moto2 rider.
"That gives me confidence, but I would never have thought I'd have to adapt as much as I have - riding style, positioning myself in the braking points, using the carbon brakes. I've had to work a lot, back and forth with the technicians.
"I seem to have got everything nailed down on old tyres. I'm consistent and have a much better feeling when the bike is sliding around. Right now on new tyres I'm too much of a wus! I need the thing to be spinning sideways to go fast.
"The limit with the new tyres is just so far out there and at the moment I'm not willing to take that step. I'm just staying in my comfort zone.
"I had the small slip off at this test, which helped me understand where the limit is. Looking back I had some warning signs [that I had reached the limit], but because I'm a rookie and I hadn't fallen off before I was a bit naive to it.
"You don't know how far it can go, until it goes. So without sounding silly, you have to crash to understand where the limit is and what it feels like when you get there."
In terms of technique, the main area for Smith to crack is hard braking and corner entry.