Bradley Smith, replacing the suspended Andrea Iannone at Aprilia for at least the early rounds of the 2020 MotoGP season, continued his transition from test to race rider at this week's Misano test.

The Englishman spent six full seasons in the premier-class with Tech3 Yamaha and then KTM before joining Aprilia in 2019.

As part of his RS-GP development work, the double podium finisher competed in four MotoGP races as a wild-card last season, alongside a MotoE campaign.

But while test riding and wild-cards require a certain margin of safety to gather data on new parts, Smith knows he must learn to push to the very limit again at Jerez.

"To be honest I feel like I had a good test, especially for me as a rider, because obviously transferring from a test rider to a race rider – mentally and physically there is a switch that you need to make, especially pushing for the lap time," Smith said.

"I was able to arrive quite quickly on the lap time on day one, but then to break that wall took me a long time. But today I felt a lot better. I was able to push past and understand where the limit of the bike is."

Indeed, there was no doubting Smith's commitment as he "found the limit in the fastest corner possible," fortunately emerging unscathed.

The double MotoGP podium finisher began the week as a close match to team leader Aleix Espargaro with a 1m 34.0s, lost ground on day two, before upping his pace to a 1m 33.5s on the final day.

That compared with a test best of 32.9s by his team-mate Espargaro, plus KTM riders Pol Espargaro and Miguel Oliveira.

"From this afternoon I started to feel better and better," Smith said. "We're finding some things with the bike that improves the feeling and the handling.

"I think also from the start of the project the base setting of the bike was already pretty good. Because when we rolled it out in Sepang and Qatar, straight away it was there.

"But we're still learning some small details and improving, especially for me some personal details to make the bike my own instead of copying the settings from the factory guys.

"So we have the knowledge and I think that's the most important thing when you start a new project like we are with the RS-GP 2020.

"Maybe we don’t have the ultimate speed at the moment, but we know what things are helping me as a rider and what things are helping the bike.

"I feel our 'pyramid' [of knowledge] is growing more and more and I'm looking forward to starting the season with everyone."

With the Misano circuit recently resurfaced and race riders from Honda, Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki absent, it's difficult to read too much into this week's times.

"I believe Jerez is going to be a different situation because the weather's even hotter there and the grip at this track at the moment is phenomenal," said Smith, who estimates that the fastest laps at Misano this week would be good enough for the top ten.

"The '32.9 for Aleix, Oliveira, Pol - let's say we know this is the top ten area," Smith said. "So if we want to be there, there is still another half-a-second to find.

"That obviously comes from me personally, but it's better than the 1.2s-1.3s that we had in Sepang and Qatar. So the gap is getting smaller, but it's still there. So there is still work to do."

One thing that doesn't need too much improvement is Smith's endurance, having completed a huge 207 laps in hot conditions over the three days in Italy.

"I think the [lockdown] gave us a good chance to build resilience," he explained. "Because you don’t normally have time to build this type of base.

"Normally you finish the season, have one month to recover and then one month to try to be ready again for the next season. So at least we were able to do that, but 25 laps at this level is another story. Let's see when that happens!"

An official Test will be held at Jerez on the Wednesday before the July 17-19 race weekend.

Misano will then host its back-to-back MotoGP races in September.

Iannone is currently awaiting an appeal against his 18-month ban for failing a doping test, the outcome of which will not only determine how many races Smith competes in this season but whether there is a seat alongside Espargaro free for 2021.

 

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