After test rider Mika Kallio crashed at the Sachsenring and Pol Espargaro suffered collarbone and spinal injuries in Czech GP Warm Up, Bradley Smith was left to fly the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing flag solo at the team’s home race in Austria – and what a great job he did.
Smith was just over a tenth off a top ten finish in what turned out to be a crucial dry FP1 session, and then went sixth quickest in a wet FP2. Then, on a drying Red Bull Ring, Smith set the second quickest time in FP3 before finishing just 0.063 behind the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP bikes of Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi in FP4.
“I’ve had a great weekend, I really have enjoyed it. There were certainly some highlights on Friday and Saturday, nearly making it through to Q2 yesterday afternoon, this morning P6.” 0.015 was the gap separating the Brit from a first Q2 appearance since Phillip Island 2017, and Smith then impressed again to finish morning Warm Up in sixth place.
Reflecting on his P14 race finish, Smith said the result is where he and the team expected to be, especially in the warmer afternoon conditions. “This afternoon we are where we’re at, it’s where we expect to be, that P13 P14 area, one or two points is great for us. We certainly struggled this afternoon in the warmer conditions, but it’s what we understand that what our weakness is with the current bike. We’re still waiting for the new bike to come along because we’ve improved in that area.
Austrian GP: MotoGP™ Full Race
“But yeah, happy to walk away from the team’s home GP with P14, to put the bike into the top 10 at one point and get all the KTM fans screaming was great, I’ve made it exciting for everyone I believe and flown the flag the best I could. So, I’m looking forward to Silverstone in a couple of weeks.”
After the disappointment of Brno, KTM Team Manager Mike Leitner praised Smith after what he describes as a “very solid weekend”: “We knew it would be difficult here after Brno. With just one rider you cannot do things like split strategies and look at tyres. We were limited but Bradley did a very solid job. Last year’s winner was just in front of him today. He felt strong after warm-up but missed a bit of rear grip in corner entry during the race and this stopped him setting the same rhythm as he did in the morning but, overall, it was a good weekend. We hope we can continue our journey in Silverstone with two riders again.”
But who will that second rider be? Randy de Puniet was confirmed as KTM’s test rider for the rest of the season in Kallio’s absence, but his Suzuka 8h injury leaves him very doubtful to race. Espargaro also revealed he will do his best to be on the bike at Silverstone, but the extent of his injuries also leaves the Spaniard doubtful.
Austrian GP: Multi-OnBoard Start
Smith though is very much looking forward to his home round as he aims to secure a points scoring finish for the sixth time this season: “Silverstone is my home race, I live 30 minutes away or I’m from 30 minutes away in Oxford so turning up there is always special, a lot of family and friends there and a bit of patriotism to fly the Union Jack and the St George cross.”
3 years ago
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