Bradley Smith put the disappointment of his opening round fall behind him by finishing a career best fifth, as the top Yamaha rider, in Sunday's Austin MotoGP round.
It was a clever race by the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider, who responded to decreasing front tyre grip by backing off - and dropping to ninth - before charging forwards in the second half of the race.
“I had some problems for the first few laps so I decided to back off a little bit,” said Smith. “I think I just got a bit too aggressive, really overheated my brakes and also my front tyre got really warm.
“Rather than risking anything and kind of letting the tyre go on a downward spiral, I let it recover for three or four laps, which is when Bautista and Pol [Espargaro} got past me. Then once I felt we were stable again I began moving forward. It seemed to be the right move for today's race.”
Smith spent the closing stages in contention for a debut podium, but was trapped behind four place Stefan Bradl while Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso escaped.
“Dovi took a breather, then with five laps to go he went back in front and pulled away. I got to Bradl and gave everything I could, and when I reached those left right left corners, where I tried to go underneath him, my heart rate just went through the roof!
“I put all my cards on the table, as I knew that Dovizioso was edging away, but he came straight back at me so I've got to give him credit for that! I am still really pleased with fifth position and top Yamaha.”
Team manager Herve Poncharal declared: “Bradley is where he was in Qatar, which is showing that it is not a coincidence. He had his best result so far in MotoGP and will definitely show us more very strong performances during this year. I think in the next few rounds we will see him even nearer to the front.”
Among those Smith overtook on Sunday was Factory M1 star Valentino Rossi, one of many riders to struggle with front tyre issues.
“Were running a setup that is away from the other Yamaha boys,” revealed Smith. “I think I can get away with it because I'm tall. I've got a little more back bias because my riding style seems to be a little bit over the front. So I don't really have any problems to make the front load and sometimes I'm actually trying to take away load. That helps with longevity of the front tyre.”
One Factory Yamaha rider Smith didn't need to pass was Jorge Lorenzo, given a ride-through penalty after jumping the start.
“I was right behind Lorenzo - luckily I didn't have the bike in gear or I'd have gone with him. That's how early he went.”
Rookie team-mate Pol Espargaro finished 3.5-seconds behind Smith in sixth.