Bradley Smith believes his current package for the 2016 season is '90%' ready for racing as he ended the final preseason test at Qatar with the 13th fastest overall time.
Having spent much of the preseason focusing on ensuring his Tech 3 Yamaha is prepared for racing conditions, Smith stated that he is 'within touching distance' of his target for the year ahead, which will be placing inside the top eight.
Frustrated by Michelin's tyre allocation on Wednesday and Thursday, the Englishman was able to post 62 laps on the final night, as he sampled Yamaha's aerodynamic winglets for the first time.
“We closed the test positively today, but all in all the pre season 2016 has been quite different compared to other years,” said Smith. “It's been an interesting process where we've had to get used to the new tyres, as well as to judge their evolution because we've had some different front and rear tyre specs to evaluate. I must say that learning to adapt the bike to these different compounds has been a challenge.
“Some parts of the pre season have also been frustrating for me because of the time the weather took from us in Australia, and also the tyre situation a bit here in Qatar and as a result, we weren't able to extract the maximum from the available testing time.
“Nevertheless, we are within touching distance of our target, which I think will be inside the top eight this year. I still believe that we have a bike that's only at 90% so there's room to improve and we are always getting closer.”
Looking ahead to the first race of the year, Smith felt confident after making strides with getting up to speed on riding 'quickly immediately' on the final day.
“Going into the start of the season, I'm confident that we can do a good job. This evening's test was positive as I improved my time quite a lot and we had consistent pace. Also, I was able to go out and ride quickly immediately which is something that I was struggling with on these tyres but I figured that one out today.
“I'm excited to complete the testing and finally get into racing mode as the competition brings out a bit of extra pressure which some people like and some don't. For me, I like to be put under pressure and I feel I perform better in that way, so roll on the start of the season and FP1 in a few weeks' time.”
Smith expressed his preference for the softer of the two front-tyre constructions over the course of the test, in keeping with the majority of the field, and encountered no issues with the rubber over race distance.
“Obviously we know what's going to be available for the GP. It's the softer of the options for me, so that will be good. I didn't have any negatives. I was able to put 30 laps on it and still do 1m 56s. I'm happy enough it will last a race distance around here.”
The Englishman was also pleased to test Yamaha's aerodynamic feature – the winglets – on the final day. Although unsure whether he will ride with them during the GP weekend, he felt improvements could be seen on the data screens.
“They've only been promised to me for today. Literally it was a surprise but there is no guarantee we're going to have them for the GP. It was like, 'Here we are, test them, tell us your feedback and we can't promise you that you'll have them for the GP.' I can accept that. I got to try them, which is always a nice thing. It's a step forward in the right direction.
“There are improvements that we can see on the data. We weren't able to extract all of them today because we're still learning and understanding what exactly they do and how they help us. They definitely are a step in the right direction.”