Bradley Smith has played down the gap between himself and the frontrunners after finishing ninth fastest on day one at Sepang. The Briton was 1.4s slower than pacesetter Marc Marquez and eight tenths down on his Tech 3 teammate Pol Espargaro but the Oxford rider was keen to stress that his physical limitations are preventing him from chasing fast times.
“I am happy to have jumped back on the Yamaha today and having completed 52 laps we were able to get a good feeling with the M1 after such a long time off the bike, which is a positive start. This week is just going to be a case of providing general feedback because my leg has not quite recovered from the injury, which means that I don’t think I will be able to push for really fast lap times. Nevertheless, I am sure that we can still find a good pace plus firm our direction to head towards and in the future we will try new solutions with electronics and geometry settings. I was able to evaluate bike 1 and bike 2 which both had slightly different setups, but the overall feedback was encouraging for both.”
“The track conditions are a bit better than when we visited here for the GP last year”, he continued. “Although it’s hotter and there is less grip than in Valencia, the improvements that I felt in Spain with the 2015 bike have certainly continued here. Overall, I am pleased with today’s performance, plus the new bike for this year is a good step forward which I am very satisfied about. I want to thank Yamaha for giving Pol and I this opportunity and I look forward to tomorrow”.
Espargaro spent much of the day in the top three before late improvements demoted him to sixth and the Spaniard already believes he is in a better position to challenge the leaders than he was in his rookie season.
“It was really nice to be back on track today. Just to be on my Yamaha again and to feel the speed of the M1 has already made me happy. Aside from this, we had a constructive day and I set a good time. I tried to lower my time towards the end of the session, but the track was quite slippery which prevented me from progressing further. However, my rhythm is promising and I remain positive for the next two days. We were able to improve in the key areas that we wanted to, when compared to last season, so I’m already excited to continue testing tomorrow morning. Furthermore, I am able to say that my physical condition has improved a lot from last season when I first rode the bike. This is because my preparation for 2015 with training has been different, yet additionally, I’m also riding smoother, which does not require as much strength. Therefore I could take advantage of the full test time, which had not been the case last year on the opening day”.