Bradley Smith admits he felt emotional as he returned to premier class action at the Japanese MotoGP following an injury lay-off.
Smith sustained a knee injury in August following a spill during practice for the Oschersleben 8-Hour race and has missed the previous three Grand Prix races at Silverstone, Misano and Aragon.
The British rider eased his way back during free practice at Motegi on Friday on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha machine, ending the day in 21st position as he improved his lap time by 2.5 seconds from FP1.
“First and foremost, I have to say that it was quite emotional to ride my bike again this morning because these last seven weeks haven't been easy but I finally reached my goal of returning to the track. Many friends, family and physiotherapists have spent a lot of time and effort to help me get fit enough to race again and the only ambition in these past fifty days was to compete in the last four Grand Prix's with Tech3, so it is great to finally get back to where I need to be,” said Smith, who lapped 1m 48.897s on the satellite YZR-M1.
“Of course, today has been challenging because my knee is obviously not perfect, however, we made a good step forward from this morning to this afternoon, which has given me a confidence boost. I hope that with a bit of rest, we can achieve more tomorrow. I must give big thanks to the Tech 3 team, because the guys have been very patient, plus they modified the bike to suit my needs,” he added.
“Most importantly, the team worked in a fantastic way to keep me calm so I can enjoy my experience back in Japan.”