18 March 2016
MotoGP Qatar: Smith unbowed despite missing Q2 cut
'It's going to be a fun showdown between me, [Cal] Crutchlow and [Aleix] Espargaro, but I'm looking forward to it' - Bradley Smith.
Britain's Bradley Smith took another tumble in FP3 on Friday but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider hasn't allowed his head to drop as he aims to progress from Q1 on Saturday in Qatar.
Smith came off on the opening day at the Losail circuit at turn 13 and suffered another front-end spill on day two, this time at turn 6.
The 25-year-old was experimenting with a different balance setting when the incident occurred and eventually finished 12th quickest as he missed the cut for Q2.
Smith, whose best lap in 1m 55.505s on the satellite Yamaha left him eight tenths back on Ducati's Andrea Iannone, said: “For me FP2 was a struggle and I seemed to get a little bit lost with the bike setting and what we were actually trying to achieve.
“The balance of the tyres was a little bit wrong and for some reason they worked yesterday but didn't today, especially on the front, so I was kind of chasing something round in circles and not really going anywhere.
“I was a lot happier with the bike in FP3 and we tried a slightly different bike balance. We knew it wasn't really the direction, but we had to try it just to confirm and it weighted the front end, which was something I didn't need because I was already quite low in that area and I ended up tucking the front into turn 6,” Smith explained.
“It made it clear that we don't need to go in that direction, although sometimes that isn't the case because sometimes if you crash with a setting, it's more about the limit of the bike. It's good data to have because we still don't understand what the Michelins need with our motorcycle and my riding style, so it was good to get that extreme data.
“I was really pleased that I was able to run back with 10 minutes to go and get out again and if I had farted down the straight, I'd have maybe passed my team-mate for tenth.”
Smith is looking forward to squaring off against fellow Briton Cal Crutchlow plus Aleix Espargaro in Q1 on Saturday and is optimistic he can find some more improvement to enhance his prospects.
“Anyway we're going into Q1, the same position I was in here last year, and I'm confident we have a good idea of what we need to do to try and improve that last little bit,” he said.
“It's going to be a fun showdown between me, [Cal] Crutchlow and [Aleix] Espargaro, but I'm looking forward to it.
“We might add some weight to take some away and vice versa because there is so much you can do with these bikes. It's just a combination and we need to still figure out exactly what we need but we definitely went in some better directions today.
“Hopefully, fingers crossed with the weather and the sand, the track stays similar because we are not getting as much graining any more on the tyres and it looks like the track is in better condition, so we are going to be getting faster and we hope for '54s tomorrow.”
Smith is one of the riders who feels the issue of 'turbulence' created in the slipstream of the winged Ducatis is a cause for concern, revealing he actually raised the matter last year.
“I complained about that last year and all the riders laughed at me, so I'm just glad that they are actually all waking up to the fact that what I was saying was true,” he said.
“I complained in Aragon when I was behind Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso] and it's something I brought up to the Safety Commission there. It's up to them to decide what they want to do, but at the moment the ruling is we're allowed to use them so I can't speak too much against it, but it does exist.”
Elaborating on the effects, Smith added: “Definitely the bike shakes. It gets to a certain speed and the bike starts to shake, so it's not a lot of fun when you're coming to a brake point.”
Reflecting on his crash, Smith said he was still working hard with his team to find the limit of the new Michelin tyres.
“I don't like crashing, it's not a good idea. I like to pride myself on being able to feel where the limit is, but I don't know at the moment,” he said.
“What I'm saying is right, but how we get to that point is different to what we usually think because we're still going on what we understand from last year. It's not working with these tyres so we have to fix it with something else.
“The fact that these new front tyres turned up really this weekend means we are still learning what we need but I'm getting my head around it. To improve 1.2 seconds from session to session, I'll take it but we still need 0.2,” Smith added.
“Tomorrow, we'll be on the right way and I said I felt we were two or three nights behind where we needed to be and unfortunately it's taken two crashes, but long term I think we'll get a positive from it.
“We know where the limit is because we can feel it but we don't know how much we can go past that. What a Michelin tyre needs is very different to what a Bridgestone needs.
“We feel we're building a good base, but if we go to Austin, what we have here might not work there, so we're not getting ahead of ourselves. We're just finding the way for this current situation and then we'll decide in the future what we need to do.”
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