The fact that newly crowned World Champion Marc Marquez ended this week’s MotoGP test as the quickest of the quick should come as no surprise for anyone not living under a rock for the past six months. But if you’d put a bet down that Bradley Smith would end today’s test with the second best time… then you’d be walking away from the betting window with a pocketful of cash.
While Marquez ended the day ahead of the 14 riders in the test with his 1:30.287 – just .05 of a second off his pole setting time for Sunday’s Grand Prix at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia – it was the 1:30.598 set by Smith that was the bigger news.
Maybe it was the arrival of his new teammate and Moto2 World Champion Pol Espargaro on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 box, or perhaps it was just the fact that Smith has been showing a steady improvement over the last half of the season and finally got some hop-up bits for his satellite Yamaha. But either way, there’s no denying that the young Brit ended his season on a high as he circulated at an impressive 1:30.598 - .6 of a second better than what he’d qualified with on Saturday.
“Today was very positive and it is a great boost to go into the winter break being so far up the timesheets,” Smith said in a team release. “I didn’t expect to be as fast as I was and to be so close to Marc [Marquez] is very positive. The new parts Yamaha gave me yesterday have really been a massive improvement and it has given me a lot of confidence that this package will help me be much stronger and more competitive in 2014. The bike just feels better balanced and although it was a one-off lap on a low fuel load, it gives me a great platform to take into next year. All we did today was play around with the settings on the new bike to see what happened when we made certain changes and I can’t find anything negative in the upgrades, so I am very grateful to Yamaha for supplying them to me. I have to be going this fast though because Pol [Espargaro] is looking very strong and it is impressive to see him so fast so soon. It looks like we will be pushing each other a lot next season and that’s positive for Yamaha and Tech 3.” LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl was third today, .27 of a second down on Smith – and fourth overall over the three days of the test, just marginally off third best rider Jorge Lorenzo, the Spaniard and his teammate Valentino Rossi not taking part on the final day. Bradl rode the 2014 Honda for the first time today.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa ended the day fourth best and fifth overall. Likewise for Alvaro Bautista, who went quicker yesterday than today and was caught out today when he crashed the 2014 bike on his eight lap today.
Pol Espargaro on next. Then came Pramac Ducati’s Andrea Iannone – the top Ducati rider some 1.3 seconds +off Marquez’ pace.
Aleix Espargaro did well on the new Forward Racing FTR Yamaha on just his second day on the bike, just outpacing the likes of Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, and putting in 49 laps on the new machine. Espargaro’s new teammate Colin Edwards did not test as he was already en route back to Texas so he could make it to Mexico in time for the Baja 1000 that gets started tomorrow.