Bradley Smith believes Pol Espargaro was a logical choice for KTM bosses when they mulled over names for the second seat in their MotoGP team for 2017, and feels the Austrian factory now has the two best satellite riders on the grid for the following year.
The Englishman insists that having Espargaro in the Tech 3 Yamaha outfit for the past two and a half years has pushed him to new heights as a rider, and stated the competitive element within KTM's new project will accelerate the machine's development process.
“If I were a team manager, I would choose Pol,” said Smith. “Why would I choose Pol to partner me in particular? Because you are basically taking the two fastest non-factory riders that are available at the moment. So if you are going to build a factory team, you take two of the best guys, which obviously makes sense.
“Those two guys have then ridden a Yamaha together for the last two years, and they've pretty much put it on the same piece of tarmac week in, week out. Their settings must be pretty close to each other, because they stay within Yamaha's general parameters. They rode exactly the same motorcycle in Suzuka and were both within 0.2 of each other round there and won that as well.
“So it seems that those two riders work quite well together, just as a generic thing, they push each other forward, they've improved each other's performance year in, year out. That means that when you actually build a chassis, you're not having to build one for one rider, and one for another, and one bike's going like this and the other like that, because they are actually working in parallel with each other.
“Which can only lead to good success. Because they've been similar speeds, you then have to look at it and go, if one is faster than the other it's because something's seriously wrong or something's not working, because we know that they're at a very similar level. So it's a good benchmark and security throughout.
“It's reducing the number of variables, especially when you are coming in as a brand new factory, you need to reduce your variables as much as possible.”
Asked whether he was consulted on KTM's decision, Smith said he had no conversations with the factory regarding rider choice.
“Their main goal was to sign the fastest non-factory rider, which was me. Then they said, 'It's a perfect scenario for us because we have our number one chip. We can look at whichever scenario we want.' That was open to World Superbike and Moto2. They waited to see how to move it forward.
“I guess I was in the knowledge that they weren't going to for the top boys, just because they can't do that. I knew it would be either one of the current pick, or Moto2. To be honest no one in Moto2 that is available for contract has really stood out so far this year. I knew that KTM think about things like I think about it. I would imagine they sat down. They were in a strong position. They had me and looked at who was going to be best.
"I'm sure they looked at all the parameters and then more. Back in March when we signed there wasn't any names. They said they may even keep one of their test riders. They looked at the broad spectrum. It got narrowed down to three or four names and I can honestly tell you I have not had any conversation with KTM about who the second rider was going to be.
“From KTM they never said anything. That was just like my contract. No one knew about it until we announced it. That's how they go about their business. They are a very professional outfit and they keep themselves to themselves. Did I need to know who the second rider was going to be? It was not my place to be involved in it. They didn't ask for my opinion so that's why I'm the rider and not the team manager.”