Bradley Smith believes he is finally 'in the ball park' in terms of set-up direction after two difficult flyaway MotoGP races in Argentina and Austin, and feels he is ready to 'earn' some decent points as the European season gets underway at Jerez.
The Englishman was forced into making radical changes to his Tech 3 Yamaha M1 through free practice in Austin as it became apparent that the base setting he used toward the end of testing and the first race in Qatar simply wasn't yielding sufficient results.
Ultimately, Smith's race in Austin didn't go to plan as he touched oil when braking for the downhill turn eleven while holding eighth place. Although unhappy with the crash that put paid to his impressive tally of 26 consecutive point-scoring finishes, the 25-year old believes the is “just going to get stronger from here.”
“We're in the right direction now,” said Smith. “The bike seems to be reacting to normal changes. We're in the ballpark. It was a brave move to do what we did. i made the perfect decisions. I went with the right tyre. I was feeling good at the beginning. It was something from support classes that potentially shouldn't be out there ruining your race. It is what it is.
“I was pleased with the set-up. We still need to refine it. I was close considering I was only 80 percent happy with the bike. It was a lot better than it had been all weekend and I was really pleased we were as close as we were considering the limited time that we had. I feel that we're just going to get stronger from here so I'm excited.”
The fall that put Smith momentarily out of the action in Austin and contributed to him finishing 17th came moments after Cal Crutchlow – a place ahead at the time – fell at the same corner.
Smith was convinced the fall was due to oil that was left behind from a MotoAmerica race on the Saturday on the track.
“Oil. It was on the patch where the bike started to blow up and then went all the way down the straight. Me and Cal were both off line. I think it was something that didn't get picked up.
“Cal was in deep and I released the brake when I saw him crash, ran over the same spot then I ran over it again about five laps later and nearly did the same thing, except going 10kph slower. There was oil down unfortunately.”
Armed with Michelin's medium front and soft rear compound, Smith was confident of bridging the small gap to sixth place and Scott Redding, something that left him “excited” as the fourth round of the season in Jerez approaches.
“Scott was coming back to me. I knew that the setting was only going to get better. when I crashed I lost my gear lever so I only had the metal part of the gear lever left and I had no anti-wheelie and no traction control in a few places as well because the system got confused. A bit like Cal's did in Qatar.
“So to still be doing the lap times that I was, I did an 2m 8.2s on the last lap while Scott was in the 2m 7s so I think with all the problems I had. It's all ifs buts and maybes but the potential is there and that's why I'm excited.”