22 March 2014
Qatar MotoGP: Smith on front row for first time
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Bradley Smith secured his first MotoGP front row start in Qatar but feels he could have gone even faster
Bradley Smith suggested he may have gone even quicker in final qualifying for the Qatar MotoGP after allowing his second qualifying tyre to cool down before his final push.
The British rider claimed his maiden front row start in third place on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1 behind Marc Marquez and Alvaro Bautista to complete an all factory front row, but Smith believes it could have been even better.
His fastest time of 1m 54.601s was only 0.094s off the pole time set by Marquez and Smith has emphasised the importance of a rapid start on Sunday.
“I was a little disappointed with the second new tyre in qualifying - Aleix [Espargaro] was waiting a lot on track, then Marc waited, then I waited, which let the tyres cool down too much,” he said.
“[I was a] bit disappointed that I didn't get a second go at it, I think I could have had a chance at pole, but nevertheless I'm happy to start on the front row, because looking at the lap times and pace of everybody it will be really important to get away at the start.”
Smith now has his sights set on claiming a debut MotoGP podium.
“The plan is to lead into turn one and then we'll see... We have to see if Alvaro can keep the pace for the full race distance, but I followed Marc and he certainly has the pace - it's whether his physical condition holds up.
“Marc outqualified a lot of us by over half a second at some tracks last year. Blew us into smithereens. So although he's missed a lot of testing we know he can do one lap, whether he's been riding a bike or not. Whether he can do 20 laps at that pace we'll see tomorrow.
“All I can do is start well and put my head down. It'll be interesting to try the bike on full fuel and new tyres in warm-up, to get a good idea of how it feels and how it's performing.”
Smith was fortunate to escape injury following a huge high-side on Friday and put the incident down to carrying more corner speed plus a lack of edge grip.
“I was obviously lucky to get away without any injury yesterday because that was definitely a big high-side,” he said.
“The great thing is that we learned a lot from that bike setting and we were able to put together something that I was really happy with today. We also found something in FP4 that we were able to translate to the new tyre in qualifying.
“The reason I crashed was obviously a little bit of a lack of side grip, but also I was carrying way more corner speed than I was able to carry previously,” added Smith.
“So we made a combination between side grip and corner speed and that's where we found the 1m 54s lap today. I got caught out but when you try and carry too much corner speed, too much angle, these things can happen.”
Smith hasn't been affected as badly by the lack of edge grip from the new Bridgestone rubber compared to his fellow Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, and says simply that he has knuckled down to engage the challenges presented by the stiffer 2014 tyres.
“I don't really know what the other Yamaha riders are complaining so much about, because we knew this was going to be the situation,” he said.
“Bridgestone made it very clear from the first test [that they would be changing to the new tyres for 2014] and actually on the last day of the first test at Sepang I gave back all my old tyres and started work on the new ones.
“I accepted the tyres didn't work that well already on the first day, but me and my team just worked more and more,” he added.
“Of course we also have three days more [testing] advantage here, whereas the Factory guys went to Australia and rode with some tyres that were not necessary the same as these ones. The compound here is exactly the same as we used at Sepang, so I've got three days more information on that tyre than them.”
Smith has also been pleased with the level of support from Yamaha after taking delivery of the new updated chassis at the end of last season before receiving the seamless shift gearbox during winter testing.
“At the Valencia test at the end of last year Yamaha gave me the new updated chassis. Straight away I was able to be fast, which gave me a lot of confidence,” Smith said.
“Then this winter they've given us the seamless shift gearbox, so they've supported us really, really well. I believe that our bikes are very close to the Factory bikes and I've got to thank Yamaha for their belief in myself and Pol [Espargaro].
“I think our packages are a lot closer [to the Factory team] now compared to the end of last year and that's mainly where my performance has come from.”
The new Factory class engine development freeze rule for 2014 means all engines within the same team must be identical throughout the season.
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