15 May 2015
MotoGP Le Mans: Smith never felt as good in MotoGP
Bradley Smith ends first day at Le Mans MotoGP on top thanks to improvements with his front forks and despite a late fall in FP2
Bradley Smith said he 'probably never' felt as good on a bike as he did in Friday's second free practice session as he topped a MotoGP session for the first time since Barcelona, 2014.
Englishman Smith ended the day as one of only two riders to dip below Marc Marquez's existing circuit record and he later pointed towards improvements with front forks as the reason for his upsurge in speed.
Having endured a difficult weekend in Jerez last time out, Smith tested new forks and electronics at the post-race shakedown and says the improvements are confidence building.
“[The] Simple thing is they gave me finally a set of front forks that allow me to brake where I want to brake,” he said. “Which is nice. I tried those in Jerez in the test. That's definitely a positive, especially around here.
"And also more understanding about electronics from what we learned from Jerez. We're able to bring the concept here, not necessarily the same strategy, but the same concept.
"Basically, the biggest thing is making the bike turn. So even in the fast corners, just because it was fast corner or a slow corner, the idea is to keep the bike steady so you can go in as fast as you want to go in, and then get the bike to turn at the right point. So that's basically what we are trying to achieve here.”
Asked whether he had ever felt as good aboard a MotoGP machine during his 40-race spell in the class he said, “Probably never, because I'm P1!
“It felt good, it did everything I wanted it to do, and it's just nice that when everything is working how I want it to, I can be competitive. Because I've been in a situation before where you sit there on a Friday and you go, listen guys, everything works great, and I'm still a second off.
“So it's just nice that I've got myself to a level that when everything is working fine, everything is working good, I can be in the mix inside that top five, top six during the sessions. That gives rider confidence.”
When asked to expand upon how the front forks have helped with the braking Smith explained, “Basically, it's to try to stop deforming the front tire. So basically keep it more round.
"So obviously, you've got more limit to play with, as you go into the corner. Instead of being on the limit and it collapsing completely flat, you've got more leeway to play a little bit with it. Which with a Yamaha, gives you confidence to release the brake, which carries corner speed.”
The 24-year old ended the day top despite a late crash in FP2 which happened when he ran off track while avoiding the stricken Aleix Espargaro at turn 13.
“Aleix had crashed, and then basically I'd let him take my attention, so I then ran wide. I was on the tarmac runoff out there, and there's just... I've never seen it before, but there seems to be a dirt bit in the middle of the tarmac run off, which I'm a bit surprised about, and I hit that. I hit that, and down I went. Something to look at for the Safety Commission guys.”
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