Coming off a positive three-day test in Sepang, Bradley Smith believes there is no reason why he cannot challenge the top five or six riders with the package available to him in the 2016 MotoGP world championship.
The Englishman, who placed sixth in the '15 standings, completed a full 20-lap race simulation on the final day of testing and feels that with further refining of electronics package he should be in a similar position to compete as a year ago.
Factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finished first and second fastest on two of the three days at the first test of the new year, something which Smith sees as a definite benefit for his Tech 3 squad.
“Given everything and knowing what I know there's no reason why we can't be top five/six.” said 25-year old. “Honda are in a bit of difficulty [and] Ducati over one lap have got something. If we lined up tomorrow and put everyone in the same situation I could fight for a podium. That's where I believe our package is.
“Given everything that's coming from the factory Yamaha, the wider front tyre, that gives us a benefit. Then refining out package a little bit more, set-up wise, there's no reason why we couldn't fight for a podium here and now.
“Of course that's going to change. Everyone's going to improve. Certainly Yamaha is in a very strong position after these first three days so we're going to rub off well on Tech 3.”
Smith posted his fastest time of the test – a 2m 1.107s lap, a second and a slower off Lorenzo's best lap - on day two, leaving the way clear to do a race simulation on Wednesday.
His one-lap pace confirmed a continuation of his 2015 speed and was indeed a full 0.7s faster than team-mate Pol Espargaro's best time, set on the final day.
“I suppose I don't feel like I'm struggling,” continued Smith. “I was happy with the lap time I did yesterday. I chopped one tyre at it and I did a 2m 1.1s which round here for me is actually a pretty decent lap time. I got to the end of yesterday and said, 'You know what, I'm pretty happy with where I am', riding a similar type of feeling that I had last year, and last year that was good enough.
“Today was more, ok, we need to work on Sundays. How to make the bike work on full fuel, worn tyres, electronics, it was important to do the race simulation as well. Today we were away from any kind of lap time. We didn't think about that.”
Reflecting on his exhausting 20-lap stint, Smith saw that with the new electronic software aiding tyre degradation less than before, results could be more determined by a rider's throttle control rather than the effectiveness of the system below them.
“I'd like to think it's going to play more into my hands. I'm not too sure that I'm going to need to up my fitness. If I can do a race simulation in Malaysia on the third day after ten weeks off then it's where it needs to be. It's going to pay dividends for the guys that are training hard and putting the effort in. there's more chance for us to shine through in that final third.
“I think that will be more at the beginning than at the end of the season because we'll refine it. It's quite good to know that it is hard work and you have to do as much as you can to hold on to the bike. It's quite exciting to see that it's more about what the rider has got in his right hand rather than the electronics package beneath him, which was the whole idea.
“To see it live was good. I now have ten days to dissect everything in my own brain and then try and relay that into a performance in Phillip Island to improve on that area.”