Bradley Smith cited a morning set-up gamble as reason for his excellent fourth place showing in Malaysia, his best dry weather result since Phillip Island, 2014.
Outside the top ten on Saturday morning, Smith made his way through Q1 to eventually qualify eighth, but the Englishman was still adjusting and tweaking machine settings up until just before the race start.
Again, Smith's consistency and the Yamaha M1's ability to manage tyre endurance told in the latter stages of the race, as he picked off Cal Crutchlow for fourth soon after the LCR Honda man had touched Andrea Dovizioso on lap eleven.
“It's a nice way to finish three weeks, that's for sure,” Smith said, having ended the first day of free practice 14th. “We were in a really difficult situation on Friday. It wasn't really competitive and we weren't sure what to do. We went to Q1, I managed to get myself out of that. We slowly turned it around. I knew I had good race pace. I knew from experience what you need from the motorcycle here to get it through the race. The track always seems a little more greasy in the race as well. Anything you're slightly struggling with is then emphasised so I tried to put in as safe a setting as we could.
“We took a bit of a gamble between the warm-up and the race to try and put slightly more grip into the bike. We don't usually change too much between warm-up and the race so I had to bend Guy's [Coulon, Smith's crew chief] ear a little bit because we were struggling and it certainly paid off. We took advantage of some unfortunate mishaps with other people but as with racing you have to finish and bring it home. Fourth position today, 13 good points and extending that lead on Dovizioso going into Valencia as well.”
Having criticised Yamaha on Thursday for not passing valuable information between the Movistar and Tech 3 teams, Smith had said going in the direction of the Factory riders' set-ups had helped him on Saturday afternoon.
Tenth at the close of a typically frantic lap one, Smith began inching towards the battle for fourth, knowing his solid race rhythm would soon tell.
“I was trying to squeeze as much as I could out of it. Obviously I had to get past Pol quite quickly. Stefan Bradl as well as soon as I could and not lose too much time to Dovizioso and Cal. I knew those guys struggle towards the end of the race with tyre performance. As long as I was within hunting distance I was alright.
“Obviously the incident between Cal and Dovi handed me that position and it seemed to unsettle Cal a little bit. I took the opportunity to really put the hammer down with seven laps to go. I managed to eke out that gap. It's hard to follow here because the Yamaha and Honda are so different. You almost get suckered in in a few areas. With me just being in front I was able to settle into my own rhythm and force Cal into a few mistakes and stretch my lead even more. It was a good day.”
As Dovizioso scored no points, Smith now sits 18 points clear of the Italian in the battle for sixth as they go into the final round of the year at Valencia. His increased advantage over Dovizioso, he said, won't impact his approach to the race greatly.
“I'm going there to put on a good performance. I want to keep this form up. I think we've found a little bit this weekend, which I'm interested to try in Valencia. We'll see what we can do from there.”