British 125cc contingent eager for Jerez action to commence

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Although it is more than three decades since a British rider achieved a Grand Prix victory in the 125cc class, that drought could well be brought to an end sooner rather than later - if the efforts of the three young Englishmen in the single cylinder class in Qatar were anything to go by.

Although it is more than three decades since a British rider achieved a Grand Prix victory in the 125cc class, that drought could well be brought to an end sooner rather than later - if the efforts of the three young Englishmen in the single cylinder class in Qatar were anything to go by.

At the Gran Premio bwin.com de España at the magnificent Jerez circuit on Sunday, 17 year-old Bradley Smith, 16 year-old Danny Webb and 15 year-old rookie Scott Redding will all be aiming to become the first Briton to win a 125cc GP since Chas Mortimer riding a Yamaha 35 years ago also on Spanish soil at Jarama in 1973.

Though British fans were given reason to cheer briefly by Jeremy McWilliams 250cc Dutch TT win with Aprilia in 2001, the current crop of youngsters are inspired by stories of former World Champion and MotoGP Legend Barry Sheene - the last Brit to win a premier class GP 26 years ago in Sweden and by the positive present day example being set by James Toseland early in his MotoGP adventure.

Arguably the strongest challenger amongst the aforementioned trio is Polaris Worlds Bradley Smith, who will be looking for a change of fortune on his return to Spain after missing out on the points in Qatar due to a technical problem - having earlier in the weekend become the first British pole-setter in the 125cc class since Mortimer at the Belgium Grand Prix in 1972.

Smith dominated the practice sessions at Losail before his misfortune in the race and was also the fastest 125cc tester at the scene for this weekends race in Andalusia in January and February. With a strong Aprilia package at his disposal if he can get that maiden victory under his belt soon, Smith could possibly have a chance of emulating the last British 125cc World Champion Dave Simmonds, who won the 1969 World title for Kawasaki.

Focusing simply on Jerez for now, encouraged by the early signs at round one, Smith pragmatically explains: `Despite having to ride catch up after scoring no points in Qatar we are taking all the positives from that opening weekend.´

`I led all the practice and qualifying sessions and also the race in Qatar. Ive also led the two pre-season testing sessions at Jerez this year and we are going into the race with plenty of confidence and just looking for that change of luck.´

Meanwhile, another history maker already this year, making a hugely impressively debut in the 125cc race in Qatar was Gloucestershire rider Scott Redding, who became the youngest front row qualifier in the 60 year history of Grand Prix racing, at the age of 15 years and 65 days.

In the race itself he missed the podium by just 0.1s, coming home fifth after a battle to the line along Losails mammoth home straight. That result also made Redding the youngest rider to have finished in the top five in a Grand Prix in any class, breaking a record that has stood for more than 30 years.

The Blusens Aprilia competitor is no stranger to Jerez having won the final round of the CEV Buckler Spanish Championship there last year and is looking forward to his second GP. Reflecting on his Losail performance he stated confidently: `I wasnt intimidated at all in Qatar. I know they are established World Championship riders but I was able stay with them no problem.´

`Im only riding last years bike and its a shame I was not on something quicker but I know Jerez very well and will be looking to go even better.´

Equally competitive at round one was 16 year-old Kent-based Danny Webb who grabbed his best ever Grand Prix result with a hard fought sixth place. The switch from Honda to Aprilia machinery by his Arie Molenaar Racing team has made an enormous difference to Webb, who also knows the Jerez circuit well after racing in Spain for many years.

`Ive come into this season with a clear head and the bike is so much better than last year,´ says Webb. `Ive raced and tested at Jerez many times. Im really confident about the race because Im much fitter, more relaxed and taking a different approach.´

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