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Le Mans: Strategic Smith shows signs of improvement

19 May 2013

By Stephen English

Rookie Bradley Smith employed a unique strategy to qualifying for the French MotoGP.

The Englishman was the sole rider who elected to do a single run for the whole 15 minute session, in a bid to get as much time on the bike and improve his understanding of the Tech 3 Yamaha.

"For me to put on two new tyres and go time attack is not where we are at," said Smith. "I decided to just use one set of tyres and look to slowly build up to it. Right now I don't have the feeling to go out and go 100%.

“So I only did one run which you could say is either positive or negative. It was kind of 50/50 if riders improved on the second run to the first one. At the moment me going out and getting a rhythm is more important than doing one lap and hoping for the best."

The strategy saw Smith qualify a respectable ninth, one second off the pace and just 0.2s slower than Valentino Rossi's factory Yamaha. Afterwards Smith admitted that being able to get straight to the limit of the bike and tyre is an issue for him, but he is confident that over time this will change.

"In qualifying they're able to extract the most from the bike. At the moment I'm still riding almost at race pace rather than going to the nth term. I think that will only come with experience"

Smith also admitted that finishing within 30 seconds of the race winner is his next target:

"That's where Colin [Edwards] was so once we get there we know we're doing a pretty decent job. If I can get within 30s of the lead in a dry race than I know we're doing something positive."

A new M1 chassis, which he first tried at the Jerez post-race test, has helped Smith's performance this weekend. When asked whether his qualifying effort marked a breakthrough Smith replied: "I think the Monday test at Jerez was a breakthrough.”

"With the new chassis and the new set-up I definitely feel more comfortable on the bike. I'm not wide eyed anymore. I'm now able to process things clearer when I'm on the bike. I'm more relaxed. We're still a second off the pace but getting into Q2 and qualifying ninth is a good progression."

The changes to the bike have improved the stability and offered more rear grip. It is clearly a step forward mechanically, but even if he had been riding this set-up and chassis specification from the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix Smith feels the results so far would have been the same.

"I needed the first three races to understand what I needed from the machine," said Smith. "Even if I had this bike from the beginning the results would have been the same. I needed those races to understand everything."


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