Bradley Smith feels he is returning to the high levels he set last year after winning out in a race-long scrap with Danilo Petrucci for seventh place and the top satellite machine at the Italian round of the 2016 MotoGP championship.
After a trying start to the season, Smith bettered his highest finish of the year, and came home a heartening 13 seconds behind race winner Jorge Lorenzo, who in turn, broke four-year old race record at Mugello.
Coupled with a positive showing in Le Mans two weeks before, the result left Smith believing that he and his Tech 3 Yamaha squad are approaching the high levels they reached in 2015, when he claimed sixth overall in the world championship.
“I'm back where I need to be, there or thereabouts,” said the 25-year old. “Not quite at the level we were at last year but we're not too far away. There is probably another two or three percent to find here and there. but we're getting the job done. It's starting to show the signs and promise that we need to. my pieces of the puzzle are slotting into position.
“I'm no longer sat there, being questioned about my motivation and my determination. If you have a look at how my form's gone the comments have always matched up to how it is. When we start feeling the right direction I'm going fast. When I'm not, I'm honest and we're slow. It's taken five races to get consistency from the tyres and allocations. Now we've got that and we can do work we've improved ten-fold. That's all we can go off.
“I don't think it's a one off. We saw great potential in Le Mans and I just didn't finish it off. I believe I would have got top satellite, it not very close to top satellite, in Le Mans. Pol was only a second up the road with ten laps to go and I felt strong in those last ten laps.
“To be honest I think this is the sign of things to come. I'm feeling better and better with the bike and we've improved it again this weekend. Mugello is a place that I like but I feel that the bike was good here and at Le Mans; two different race tracks. So we're getting our heads around it. The performance is coming because of that.”
On Saturday, after qualifying seventh, Smith had complained of a lack of feeling with the front end in several parts of Mugello's track but overnight improvements allowed the Englishman to ride as he had planned.
“We adjusted that. I felt we went in the right direction. In the race I had a good feeling with the front. I didn't push it in the early laps. After I got the start that I did I thought, 'Best not mess this one up!' It felt more like last year. I could take my time in the race. Once I did feel comfortable I set a pace that caught other riders and other riders couldn't catch me so it was a good one.
“I just didn't want to make a mistake. I knew I had a great opportunity to get a result here and I didn't want to fluff it. I probably rode a bit tight in the first five laps. It's easy to run off track here or make a silly mistake and tuck the front. It was more a case of getting through the first five laps, don't lose a terrible amount of positions and go from there.
“Seeing everyone blow into Turn one and running wide and off track, I didn't want to be that guy. I kept ten percent in my pocket and then pushed on when I needed to. I got passed on the straight a lot. It seemed that I was a sitting duck to a lot of people but that's just the way it is.”