Smith learning through Aprilia test rider, TV eyes

Bradley Smith says he’s been able to continue his own MotoGP development and learning as Aprilia’s test rider and also watching on television from home
Smith learning through Aprilia test rider, TV eyes

Bradley Smith says he’s been able to continue his own MotoGP development and learning despite being trackside as Aprilia’s test rider and also watching on television from home.

Smith has become Aprilia’s test rider, which also hands him five wildcard MotoGP appearances alongside his MotoE campaign this season, with his second wildcard outing taking place this weekend at the Spanish round.

Smith, who hasn’t raced since the 2019 opener in Qatar, has spent the time both on testing and spotter duty for Aprilia as he gets to grips helping develop the Noale factory’s MotoGP machine.

While Smith was in Austin for the Americas MotoGP he had to watch the Argentina round from home, the first race he’s missed in over a decade (excluding injury absences), but ensured he kept a well-trained eye on the action watching every session, qualifying and the race.

The British rider says he was able to gain a great deal of insight watching on television by assessing the entire MotoGP grid rather than solely through the eyes of his own performance or with his team.

“You learn different strengths of each bike in terms of how each team pieces a weekend together,” Smith explained. “It is interesting to see who is just putting new tyres in at the end for two fast laps, who was doing long runs, who was doing this and that.

“The race was very interesting for me in Argentina to see how much Ducati use their power advantage but also their knowledge of overheating tyres too much in certain areas of the track where they see a spike in tyre temperature and see too much slip ratio.

“They really do cut the power in quite a few areas but you see that reward as they have some of the fastest pace in the last five laps of the race.

“Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso], even if he finished fourth in Austin he was still the fastest guy out on track for the last five laps, so Ducati and him have really figured something out. If they are near the front you can pretty much guarantee and put your bottom dollar that they have the best rear tyre and bike to attack those final five laps.”

But with Smith returning to action at Jerez this weekend for his second race for Aprilia, he’s confident clear progress is being made by the team since his intensive debut during winter testing.

“I had such a busy pre-season, I finished Valencia, had the Valencia test with these guys then came here and had the MotoE test then did another test with Aprilia, then came back here on the 19th December for another test,” he explained. “Bearing in mind I’d done two flat-out seasons with KTM. Then [at the start of 2019] I was in Malaysia for 10 days at the start of this year, then the Qatar test and Qatar race and came straight from there to do another test here.

“By the time it was Argentina when I was watching it on TV I was not so worried, I was quite glad to have 10 days! I still watched every session, 45 minutes turn on and turn off. I still structured my day around it.

“From Qatar that has taken a massive step forward and make sure that everything is on par. They are professional and doing the job right and I think we’ve seen the results.

“You don’t go two top nine finishes for Aleix [Esparagaro] in the opening part of the season, from where they were last year, without the work [in testing] but we need to keep that rolling because ninth, although good, means we need to keep hunting towards that top six.”

Smith also expects not only his own workload to ramp up but also the rate of development Aprilia can achieve now MotoGP arrives for the European stretch of the season.

“The steps we’ve made going forward as a company since I’ve arrived in November when I rode in Valencia compared to what we have now, I have not seen this rapid progression in any manufacturer.

“They are reacting super-fast to things which is fantastic and we just need to keep that ball rolling going through the season.

“Now we are in Europe it should be easier, my testing ramps up more and more, at least three days a month until July. That’s where my job comes in with the test team to really bring it across to the race team.”