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MotoGP France: Slick move rewards Smith with seventh

Red Bull KTM's Bradley Smith was seventh fastest at Le Mans after fitting slicks towards the end of FP1 to take advantage of a drying track.
Bradley Smith capitalised on his decision to fit slick tyres towards the end of FP1 at Le Mans to end Friday seventh fastest on the Red Bull KTM.

Smith didn't venture out until late in the session but clocked a time in 1m 40.817s as he finished one place ahead of Valentino Rossi in the morning times.

The British rider realised Jack Miller and Loris Baz had fitted slick tyres, prompting him to follow suit in a move that paid dividends.

“I managed to pull the lap out in FP1. I kind of sat in the garage, and then I saw Jack (Miller) and (Loris) Baz go out on the slicks. I saw that they were building, I think Bautista as well at one point,” Smith said.

“I just decided I need to get out there on the slick and see if we can take advantage, because of the uncertain weather. To be seventh was great, just because it didn't put any pressure on this afternoon, and should it keep on doing this into tomorrow it's a nice way to go into Q2.

“But we'll see. We'll see what the weather brings tomorrow. Overall, this afternoon, I wasn't really too confident; we seemed to be missing something on the rear, rear grip, especially on the entry into corners.”

Rear grip has been an on-going issue for Smith and KTM but he feels the problem was exacerbated by the conditions in France.

“To be honest, it's something that we've always had, but it just became more apparent because there was more standing water today and colder conditions. Maybe with this track as well, where they've resurfaced it, it's not so abrasive. It's actually, not polished, but the stone is not really there; it's like the tars there, but the stone isn't really biting the tyre,” Smith said.

“It was a learning day for us. We've never been in these conditions, I never rode here in the rain at the test. Pol (Espargaro) and Mika (Kallio) were able to, so it took me a little while to get the feeling that I needed and hopefully tomorrow we can improve.”

Smith tried two variations of fairings and felt the winged version offered a small improvement.

“For me, it's still a step in the right direction with our little downforce, our little wing that we have there. For me, I like that upgrade, and like we did in the previous races we saved them for the right moment. We were able to try both today just to reconfirm it at this race track, and we'll continue that for the rest of the weekend.”

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