Bradley Smith says he will miss the 'family atmosphere' at Tech 3 as he prepares to begin a new challenge as a factory KTM MotoGP rider.
Smith and his Tech 3 team-mate Pol Espargaro will spearhead the Austrian manufacturer's foray into the premier class in 2017 on the RC16 and although the British rider admits he has always wanted to become a factory rider, he says he will miss the relaxed and warm environment within the Herve Poncharal's French team.
“I'll miss the light-heartedness that's around the team, although sometimes I wish there was a bit more seriousness. There's a good atmosphere always inside our garage regardless of results,” he said.
“Everyone appreciates the effort and time that everybody puts in and you're not just a number at Tech 3 – you're part of the team, part of the family. I see perhaps on the outside other factory teams where it looks very robotic and you are just a number – you have to kind of check in and check out.
“Seeing the same faces for the last four years is something I am going to miss and I've got to remember to stop at an orange garage from now on and not a black and green one,” added Smith.
“So many things I'll miss, but also I'm very excited for the new challenge because all the things that a factory team brings is what I've wanted for a long time. I think the biggest thing is the experience and the knowledge, and trying to look at the big picture all the time rather than concentrating on too much of the small details. Trying to see positives in everything because I am quite bad at trying to see the negatives.”
Smith, who will ride the KTM RC16 for the first time during the two-day official MotoGP test at Valencia on Tuesday and Wednesday, finished ninth in his final race for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
He is still some way off being fully fit after returning from injury but Smith is satisfied with his performances in the final races of the 2016 season.
“The only disappointing thing was not being able to follow Pol and Aleix [Espargaro]. I was struggling to stay with them and I kept having a lot of front-end moments. We'd kind of lose some time, then come back again and then lose it again. I think Cal [Crutchlow] decided to try and push on and ended up going over the limit into the last turn,” he said.
“That left me in no man's land a bit because they had gone and clearly had a bit more pace so it was a case of bringing it home. It was frustrating because I felt we had found something in warm-up that would let me fight with Pol, but we just weren't able to manage it.
“I have to be happy because we had a massive gap back to the other guys and we took a step forward from the flyaways. Considering all things, I have got to be happy with how it ended up. The aim was always to try and be as fit and healthy as possible and ready for the new adventure,” Smith added.
“It was disappointing to miss out on top satellite rider this year because we've managed to keep it in Tech 3 for quite a while, but 'Crutch' deserved this one for his strong performances from mid-season.”
Smith was impressed by KTM's debut in the hands of Mika Kallio, who qualified ahead of Tito Rabat and Yonny Hernandez before retiring from the race with technical issues.
“It's very bold of them to come out in the limelight with all eyes on you is a brave thing to do. I think what they were able to do yesterday [Saturday] was very impressive – I don't know what happened in the race situation today but it's all part of that learning process,” Smith said.
“We have the best part of 15 days between now an Qatar to continue to work and iron out anything that has happened. I think we have to be very positive, both myself and Pol, after finishing the season as strong as we did. It's certainly a good team moving on, so I'm pleased with the outcome of everything.
“It's always difficult to finish on what's been quite a difficult season for one reason or another, but we don't have the latest chassis, we don't have the latest suspension and our bike is still designed around Bridgestones. We had one electronic guy between two rather than five between two, so we did the best that we could and considering the injury and everything I'm pleased with how I came back,” he added.
“I'm still a long way from fitness and it's been nine weeks since the last surgery and the doctor said it would recommended it would be 10 or 12 before I would start riding again. I'm pleased that I've learnt as much as I've done throughout this year and I believe the performance improved a lot.
"If you look to the beginning of the year, I was struggling to make it into Q2, struggling to be inside the top ten, and by the time we've got to the end of the year, I can say that I've had that pace in the last few rounds even with an injury.
“I think we got our head around trying to get this bike working with the Michelins and that is good for the future.”