MotoGP Assen: Smith returns to MotoE action, qualifies eighth| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
Bradley Smith was back in action on the GRT RNF MotoE machine on Friday following ten weeks off the bike due to his EWC Le Mans start-line crash.
Intense rehab on his fractured vertebrae undertaken and cleared to compete at the Dutch TT track, Smith was greeted with wet conditions as the Assen weekend fired up. The Brit worked his way into the opening session gradually as he re-familiarised himself with the electric class and the 4.5km layout, completing FP1’s early 20 minute session eighth in the times with a 1’53.045. LCR’s Eric Granado topped the session with a 1’51.012 with Smith’s teammate Niccolo Canepa three-tenths and three places ahead on 1’52.847 pace.
With FP2 cancelled due to the increasingly heavy rain, Smith’s morning effort was enough to grant him direct entry into Q2 with Intact GP’s Dominique Aegerter and Jordi Torres amongst the Q1 fight. The initial ten minutes, the first on a dry track, proved an advantage to the promoted WorldSSP Champion with Tech3’s Hector Garzo securing second at the expense of the reigning World Cup title holder. The returning Pons’ rider settled for eleventh on the gird for Saturday’s opening race.
Q2 saw 24℃ air temperatures warming the track to 30℃ as the Brit headed straight out of the blocks in a bid to get as much track time under his belt as possible. Riding solo as he set the initial pace while the remainder of the pack worked in two separate groups.
Granado was the man to beat as the first hot laps came in with a 1’44.429 trailed by Gresini’s Matteo Ferrari and Pons’ Mattia Casadei before Miquel Pons made it an LCR one-two. The Brazilian upped the pace with a 1’43.9 as Aegerter looked to match it. Granado increasing his advantage next time around with a 1’43.7 before the Swiss rider bettered in the final minute thanks to a 1’43.643. Ferrari completed the front row from Casadei, Pons and Canepa with Garzo heading Smith - who steadily improved his time across his first qualifying session of the season to a 1’45.173 best - and Marc Alcoba on row three. Xavi Fores completed the top ten.
“First and foremost, it’s nice to be back and start my season finally!” Smith said from the Dutch TT paddock. “It was definitely not the easiest day overall, because this morning it rained and we went straight into a dry qualifying.
“A few months off the bike and not being in any racing situation made it difficult. Anyway, things could obviously have been worse, we’ll start from P8, that’s our level at the moment.
“We’ll try to do a little bit better with the setting for tomorrow, get a good start and try to go with the front group, if possible.”