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BRADLEY SMITH'S VIEWS: So many positives to take, despite early exit
4:00pm Thursday 27th March 2014 in Sport
What a difference a year makes – although the end result, on paper, looks exactly the same.
I may have crashed out of the opening grand prix of the season in Qatar for the second year running, but in totally different circumstances.
This time, I was lying in fifth place with four laps to go when the racer in me told me to push on and try and catch the likes of Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi to finish on the podium.
Last year, it was my first MotoGP race and I was certainly feeling my way round before the crash.
The fact we could run with the likes of Marquez and Rossi, have the confidence to push on in the later stages and start from the front row show just how far we have come.
We certainly took full advantage of the three-day test in Qatar just a couple of weeks ago, and we were set-up right from that first practice session on Thursday evening.
All looked good – until I took to the sky in the third practice session on the Friday night.
It was a big, big crash and I can’t remember ever flying so high.
I was so lucky not to be hit by the bike when it seemed to take an age before it came down and disintegrated in front of me.
I’d got just a little too excited when we were trying a new setting which was not matched by the grip.
I was lucky to be able to go out on my second bike and immediately set my fastest lap so far.
It was great to qualifying on the front row for the first time, but I was a little disappointed not to push for pole after playing a waiting game with Marquez.
The first run was good, but I sat it out too long before going out on the second tyre because I did not want to be followed by other riders.
Time was running out when I got back out and the tyre was just not warm enough to push on.
I’ve never been up there before in MotoGP qualifying and so I’ll know not to play the waiting game next time.
I made a great start in the race and was settling in behind Jorge Lorenzo when I was really shaken up in a blur of sparks and sand when he crashed just in front of me.
I took time to settle back down, but then got into a great rhythm riding with a full fuel load – something that had caused me so many problems last year.
I was comfortable, settled in behind the leaders without getting close enough to challenge. With six laps to go, I felt confident enough to have a real go.
I’m a racer and there’s no point in taking the easy option, but it did not go to plan.
We’d had no problem with the front end of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha the whole weekend, but I felt it go as I dipped into turn two.
For the second year running, my race ended in a great cloud of dust – and great disappointment.
I’ve had time to reflect on the long flight home about our first weekend of the season and it has given me a real positive vibe about the next 17 rounds of the championship.
At the final grand prix in Valencia last year I finished 29 seconds behind the winner Jorge Lorenzo.
Before the crash in Qatar, I was around four seconds down on the leaders with just four laps to go.
That’s what enormous progress we have made in Qatar and that’s what we will take with us to the next round at Austin in Texas.
The most frustrating thing is we’ve got to wait almost three weeks before I get out on the bike again to make that gap even smaller.
It’s a long wait, but I will keep reminding myself just how close I was to a podium finish in the first race of just my second season when I’m pounding out those miles in the gym and on my pushbike.
Hopefully I’ll be on that plane to Texas before I know it to confirm all those positives from Qatar.
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