Author: Oli Rushby Pics: Bonnie Lane Posted: 26 Aug 2015
Bradley Smith has said the reason his 2016 MotoGP deal took so long to sort out was because he was pushing Yamaha for equal machinery to team mate Pol Espargaro.
The British rider has been miffed this season as despite his results being better than Espargaro’s, the Spaniard has received a number of upgrades (such as a new chassis) he hasn’t got.
The reason for this is that Espargaro is a Yamaha contracted rider while Smith is contracted to the Tech 3 Team. While this remains the same next season, Smith has agreed a deal that will see his YZR-M1 identical to that of his team mate across the season.
Despite suggesting his ride could be in doubt to the media earlier this year, Smith says he always knew there was a bike for him at Tech 3 if he wanted it.
“I knew that the bike was there for me,” he told Bike Social earlier today. “I’d already spoken with Herve and he told me they didn’t want to put anyone else on it but we needed to iron things out. He said from the word go that he had 100% faith in what I’m doing but I needed to make sure I had the same from Yamaha.
“I needed to be sure I had the same support from the factory and that they wouldn’t give my team mate any unfair advantage. The guy is a Moto2 World Champion, he doesn’t need an advantage over me as he’s an extremely talented rider. I wanted to make sure we are starting on the same level because next year is important; it’s a season where there will be a lot of factory rides up for grabs.
“With the new technical regulations it’s going to be tough enough so I didn’t want him to get any preferential treatment. It took a few more weeks than I expected, I had to wait for Pol to sort himself out in Indy and then I had to sort my negotiations.”
Smith has beaten Espargaro in all but two races so far this year, so we asked him whether he thought it unfair that he had to wait for the Spaniard to finalise his deal before signing his own.
“I think it is unfair but I also spoke to Yamaha and everything was explained to me,” he responded. “It’s Japanese policy, it’s just the way it is. It’s nothing personal it’s just what they need to do. It does feel a bit bad that I have to wait for him to be sorted before I can start mine but it made it easier as I knew the bike was being saved for me. It was just the way it was."
Currently fifth in the championship standings, ahead of factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa, Smith is enjoying his best season in MotoGP. With this in mind, he says he can’t get carried away ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
“It’s gone a lot better than I expected this year, we’re in fifth position in the championship at the moment so we have to be pleased with that. I need to continue to roll this on into Silverstone and not get carried away. It might be the British GP this weekend but it’s exactly the same environment in my garage. Just because we’re in England doesn’t mean things change all of a sudden. I enjoy Silverstone a lot, I had a great feeling here last year so I’m looking forward to getting out on Friday."
Smith’s results this year are a dramatic improvement on his first two years with Tech 3. He finished eighth in last year’s standings, behind rookie team mate Espargaro and in 2013 he was tenth overall. We asked what he’d changed to see such an improvement…
“I’ve changed quite a few things this season but more than anything it’s my electronics guy,” Smith explained.
“That’s the biggest change for this season, a fresh set of eyes inside the garage and because of that I’ve come to understand the electronics a lot more. We were fortunate enough to have one of Valentino’s technical engineers in our garage for the first test and we literally just picked his brains for the three or four days trying to extract as much as we could.
“The more I could understand the electronics the more I could give back to the team to let them know what I needed. I could then understand what you’re allowed to change, there are so many things you can change with electronics it’s good to know what you can change and how that will affect the bike. I finally got my head around that this year and started to be able to dial things in a lot more, with engine braking, traction control, wheelie control, how much it steps out – it’s a science and it really influences what happens out on the race track.
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“I got on a lot better with the new M1 as soon as I got it in Valencia, I ride a lot more from the rear end of the motorcycle and I need rear grip to have confidence. That’s my style, if I’ve got rear grip I don’t care what the front’s doing, but I need the rear to give me a certain feeling and each year I’ve ridden the M1 it’s got better so I’m looking forward to next year.”
While we had him, we thought it’d be rude not to ask about his lightning starts. Smith often propels himself into a strong position at the start of the race and on numerous occasions has been in contention for the lead at the first corner.
“I’ve always made good starts but nobody sees you from 13th on the grid! Obviously starting from the second row it makes it look a lot more spectacular. I think it’s thanks to Motocross!”
Smith announced a one-year extension to his Tech 3 deal earlier this week.
BT Sport is the home of MotoGP in the UK with every race exclusively live throughout the season. Coverage of the 2015 Octo British Grand Prix starts on Friday at 9am on BT Sport 2 with the MotoGP race live from 12:45 on Sunday and for the first time in Ultra High Definition on BT Sport Ultra HD.