Bradley Smith labeled his KTM debut at the Valencia MotoGP test a success, after 'two bloody hard days' in which he learnt the extent to which the electronics package on the RC16 needs to improve.
The Englishman spent much of his time working on and correcting the engine braking side of the software, and feels the traction control and power delivery aspect will need ironing out before intense suspension and chassis work can begin.
While the size of the job facing Smith and KTM, to get the Austrian machine fully up to speed before the season opener in Qatar in March, wasn't lost on the former Tech 3 Yamaha rider, he was nonetheless pleased with his new factory environment.
“I can't ask for more,” began Smith. “They've been two bloody hard days. Mentally, my head wants to explode! The biggest thing is I really enjoy working with people that can implement what I'm trying to achieve. That's the most exciting thing. They can actually change things and improve things.
“I think these last two days has just been a case of information gathering as much as possible, from an electronics point of view, from a gearbox point of view. You know, gearings, and the right gears for the right corners, which gear gets the maximum power for the right moment. That kind of thing.
“That's been the main focus. It's not basic stuff, but far away from working with chassis and suspension. We're at the beginning of our working process. But I believe what we've achieved in these two days has been very good. It's given us a clear direction of where we need to go.
“The good thing is me and Pol seem to be working in the same direction and complaining about similar things, which is good. At least that doesn't give KTM a headache. In the next few days before Jerez we can focus on where we need to improve. Then next year me and Pol will continue to work in a similar direction, which is great.”
Asked if working through the electronics issues were comparable to adapting to Magneti Marelli's spec software package at the beginning of 2016, Smith said the current task at hand was much greater.
“It's a lot more difficult than that. Obviously Yamaha had a lot more data and information. We are starting from nothing. It's a case of take everything the test riders have done this year and continue to keep that ball rolling.
“It's going to be a slow progression but I'm pleased with the work. The electronics guy clearly understood the work that we need to do. It's taken two days just to work on engine braking. That's how difficult these type of things are and that's how long it takes. And that was working well – both riders working in the same direction, asking for the same things with good weather and just riding here.
“The next thing is working on that traction control, power delivery and then hopefully we can start a bit of chassis work and suspension from there. Right now electronics is the main focus.”
On how the RC16 feels to ride, Smith was impressed by its compact shape, the feel offered by the steel chassis and the WP suspension - all features that allow him to notice even the smallest of set-up changes.
“It's certainly small. It has some great points. The steel chassis gives some great feedback. You understand where the front and rear tyres are 100 percent. WP suspension is giving really good feedback to my hands.
“There is nothing mysterious. I know where the bike is at all times so that's something that's good for the direction in the future. It seems logical. The bike reacts to logical changes and I can feel it straight away. It's not like you have to make a big step to feel it. Even a small step you feel so that's nice.”
Smith, yet to regain full fitness from his knee injury, was ranked 20th (+2.563s) out of 24 riders on the final day of testing. Team-mate Pol Espargaro was 17th (+1.878s).