Bradley Smith finished in fifth position after narrowly missing out on a debut podium, with Pol Espargaro crossing the line in sixth to claim his first MotoGP points and as the quickest rookie.
After having qualified in eighth, Smith dropped back a place during the first lap, but soon set into a smooth rhythm and proceeded to move up the field, progressing up to seventh a few laps later. He then closed in on the Factory Yamaha of Valentino Rossi before passing him quickly. On lap 14 the young British rider overtook his teammate and swiftly caught the fifth placed rider three laps later, before hunting down the remaining competitors to challenge for the final podium position.
Smith rode tirelessly to reach them, and then exchanged forceful moves with Stefan Bradl right down to the chequered flag fighting for fourth position. Even though the battle did not end in his favour, on what was once again a difficult racetrack for all the Yamaha bikes, Smith showed his progression, finishing as the top Yamaha on the timesheets.
Smith enthused, “I am very pleased with my performance during the 21 laps with this being the most physical track on the calendar in my opinion. I was a bit too aggressive during the first laps, and overheated my brakes and the front tyre got really warm. Once the tyres had stabilised, I started moving forward. I then thought either the bike is going to come to me or I am just going to have to sit where I am. With 12 laps to go, I realised that I had a chance and put my head down. I got to Bradl and gave everything I could, and when I reached those left right left corners, where I tried to go underneath him, my heart rate just went through the roof. I put all my cards on the table, but I am still really pleased to be the top Yamaha.”
Meanwhile, rookie Espargaro successfully clinched his maiden points scoring finish at COTA, and completed the race as the fastest rookie by finishing in a highly impressive sixth position.
He commented, “I’m truly happy with today’s result; to get my first MotoGP race finish in sixth position and in front of the Factory Yamahas makes me quite proud. I knew that I had to push as much as possible at the beginning, as I didn’t want to lose contact with the guys in front of me. I probably pushed a little too much and I could not keep the rhythm until the end of the race. But I’m happy that I was able to battle with my teammate during a certain stage of the race because Bradley is going really fast this season. Being the second Yamaha means we have not done a bad job at all.”