By Stephen English
A mechanical failure caused Bradley Smith to retire from Sunday's MotoGP race at Laguna Seca, but afterwards the Englishman was far from downbeat as he assessed the opening half of his rookie MotoGP campaign.
"The race didn't work out great with the mechanical failure," said the Tech 3 rider. "Yamaha are looking into it to find out what went wrong. Luckily I caught it before it did too much damage but I don't think it was a massive problem."
Laguna Seca marked the midway point of the season, with Smith taking a best race finish of sixth (twice) in the opening nine rounds. The former 125cc race winner is happy with his progress and is now looking to qualify in the top six and finish races close to the satellite Honda riders.
"I'm really pleased [with the season so far], we've improved in the races. Considering that we finished in the gravel after four laps at Qatar to now be within 25s of the winner at the Sachsenring is good.
“My qualifying performance is also improving an awful lot. There's still a lot of work to do for the rest of the season but even this weekend we found some improvement again, but this is the point where it starts to get difficult [to make more improvements]."
When asked if he felt that his performances have silenced the doubters who felt he did not deserve the Tech 3 ride, Smith did not hide from the question and admitted to having doubts himself before the start of the season:
"I can understand the people that doubted me and I didn't come into the season with a lot of self-confidence because I knew it was going to be difficult. It's taken longer than I first expected to get up to speed, but now that I'm starting to understand the bike and tyres I feel that we've already shown good performances in my rookie season.
“Now the next step, as we saw today with Stefan [Bradl's] great result, is the benchmark and it shows I've a lot of work to do in the next twelve months if I want to progress."
Aside from his US GP DNF, Smith his scored points in all events barring the opening round in Qatar. The Englishman is eleventh in the championship standings.