After a day spent testing new tyres in Barcelona, Bradley Smith believes Michelin is roughly in the ballpark of where it needs to be, with the Englishman believing the French firm's current rear tyre construction is roughly at the right level.
Smith was an unfortunate non-finisher in the seventh round of 2016, but used the subsequent one-day test to sample an array of different compounds. Of the different rear tyres he tried, only one was a notable upgrade – a sign, in the Englishman's eyes, that the product riders are already using is at a high level.
“There was one tyre in particular that I think everyone liked,” said Smith, who ended the test twelfth fastest, 0.2s and one place back of Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi.
“We had to do five laps on it. I did a 1m 46.1s and the rest were 45s. That was a pretty big step forward. I was pleased with that. To be honest Michelin is very close to where it needs to be. They brought a couple of options but I think they are really within the ballpark in terms of what they can do and what works with these bikes. If they go any softer they'll overheat and spin.
“If they go any harder they'll suffer with grip. They're within very good parameters at the moment and now it's difficult for them to improve to that next level. Even the new front tyre that we tested was worse than what we've got currently. That's nice. Out of five tyres I tried today, only one was better than what we were using already. It shows they are doing a good job.”
The Englishman, who retired out of Sunday's race with reported gearbox issues, went on to explain how he focussed primarily on improving the feeling with the rear tyre, which until then had been causing issues with the front of his machine.
“There was a long list of tyres that Michelin wanted us to get through,” continued the 25-year old.
“That was all of this morning's work. Then secondary to that was a lot of rear shock settings. I believe we have got the front pretty sorted to where it needs to be. We've just been struggling a lot with the rear - the grip on exit and the position on entry and mid-corner.
“It's causing issues with the front but the problem isn't actually coming from the front. Sometimes you can't get the bike to hook around the corner and turn, and the feeling of always overloading the front – if I push any harder I feel that I'll crash.
“Finding some help with the rear, to get it to do the right movements. Mainly working on grip, as it was something that everyone struggled with this weekend. It was a good chance to work on all those kind of things. Generally I'm pleased with today's outcome.
“It was good to put yesterday behind us, put 83 solid laps in without technical problems and work on a load of small details. Just like Jerez, we finished the test knowing more about the bike. Perhaps we won't be so lost further on in the year. If we are struggling we'll know what to change and what works with these tyres.”
Michelin Racing's technical director Nicolas Goubert feels the one-day test in Barcelona produced mainly positive results.
“The programme was mainly to focus on the rear, mainly to increase the traction, as had been requested. We had three new rears to request but only the construction, based on one of the compounds we had [in the allocation] for the race weekend. The results are really positive because all the three new tyres are better than the reference tyres. We just have to choose which one to take.
“The profile is the same. It is a slight modification on the construction that we have used since Austin.”
On whether any of these new rear tyres could be introudued before the summer break that begins in the middle of July, he added, “We'll analyse in detail the results of everyone and see if we need to come up with one of these or a combination of one of these effects before the summer.
“Technically it's possible. It's not that complicated but we'll see if it's adequate for any of the tracks we'll go to before the summer.”