Bradley Smith began what could be his final race weekend of the season by putting Aprilia at the top of the timesheets on his last lap of a wet opening practice for the French MotoGP.

The Englishman's afternoon session also ended with a bang, albeit of the painful kind, as he was launched from his RS-GP after hitting a wet patch on slick tyres during FP2.

"Apart from feeling a bit sore it was an awesome day," said Smith, whose presence at the remaining rounds depends on the outcome of Andrea Iannone's doping appeal, due to be heard by the CAS next week.

"I felt pretty good this morning in the wet, just made a steady build-up. Of course no-one's really risking on a cold Friday morning in Le Mans, but I'm willing to so it was nice to put the Aprilia in P1.

"Although it doesn't necessarily mean anything it's still nice for everyone inside the factory and inside the team that put all the hard effort in. So that was good.

"Then honestly I was feeling alright this afternoon as well. The wet patches were quite scary but I felt like I was managing the situation quite good then just got caught out by that one. TC didn’t catch me in time and down I went!

"But we might also have [mixed conditions] on Sunday and I'd rather know where that wet patch is and hurt today than make the same mistake on Sunday.

"Up to that point I'd been running top six, so we'll buff out the damage in the fairings and be ready to go tomorrow."

'Everything is based off lean angle and slip'

Asked to explain why traction control struggles to contain such wet-patch highsides, now almost eradicated in pure dry conditions, Smith replied:

"Everything is based off lean angle and slip [wheelspin], so basically when it's conditions like that you don't really have a whole bunch of slip because you're trying to get it through the corner and over the wet patch before you open the throttle. So you're below your threshold where the TC starts to work. 

"I even sat down with the electronics guy now and there's not a lot we could have done. Just got to be mindful of it and understand that in those type of conditions, when you do have wet patches, you're spinning maybe 50% less than you normally do.

"So you're well underneath where the TC should start working, in theory, and if you then hit a wet patch your slip goes super quickly up and the TC has no chance to catch it.

"It's one of those joys of riding in tricky conditions and it catches you out."

Smith eventually dropped back to 18th after missing the end of FP2 following the highside.

Team-mate Aleix Espargaro fell moments before Smith in the afternoon, a lowside under braking at the first chicane, on his way to 20th place.

"Not exactly an easy day. I hadn’t yet had the chance to try the new RS-GP in the wet and it is clear that there is still work to be done," said the Spaniard. "The positive side is that Bradley demonstrated an outstanding level in those conditions, so that gives me confidence."

 

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