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A Post-season Catch-up: Bradley Smith

Marc Marquez may have climbed to unbelievable heights as he dominated the Rookie of the Year stakes in 2013, but Bradley Smith was extremely pleased with his maiden season in the premier class. We catch up with the Englishman.

Alongside Cal Crutchlow at Monster Yamaha Tech3, Smith made the jump up from Moto2™ to MotoGP™ to score 116 championship points and end the season inside the top ten. Along the way, the Oxford-born rider achieved top ten race finishes on 13 occasions, including a trio of notable sixth places in the Grands Prix of Catalunya (Round 6), Germany (Round 8) and Australia (Round 16).

Bradley, share with us a high and low point of 2013…

I suppose I wasn’t happy with the first race - that was definitely a big let down, to crash out. That was probably the biggest ‘no!’ moment of the year. I would say the thing I’m happy with was just the progression of the year; not one moment that really stands out, but the continual progression and the final test at the end of the season.

You were teammate to Cal Crutchlow; how much did that help?

In terms of performance, I wouldn’t say too much. In terms of pressure, it was huge to have Cal there because he took the pressure away. The way he is inside the garage and the way he is with the team creates such a positive atmosphere and that obviously also helps the results with the expectation of the team and the sponsors. He really took away all the limelight and put it on himself, with all of the podiums and the good results. From that respect, it didn’t matter what I did, which really allowed me to concentrate on myself without any added distractions.

You signed your MotoGP™ contract at the end of 2011, with that deal including one more year in Moto2™. After your subsequent tough Moto2™ season in 2012 you would receive some criticism regarding your jump up to the premier class. Do you feel you have now done enough to silence the critics?

[Laughs] I’m not sure you can ever shut up all of the critics! There will always be people who don’t like you and who doubt you as a person, but it’s nothing new. That is the same in any walk of life: in motorsport, with an office job, with celebrities, comedians…everywhere! The only negative thing is if you let it affect you and your performance, but I like to think I changed a few people’s points of view.

Now the situation has changed; Pol Espargaro joins the team and you become the more experienced MotoGP™ rider with the pressure on your shoulders…

Absolutely! Also, it’s normal. I was always expecting that. It’s not a new situation and in your second year you have to step up to the plate - and I’ve been well aware of that for a long time. It’s nice to have Pol inside the garage; it’s extra focus ready for 2014 and having someone as fast as him helps an awful lot. I think we can push each other really well. It’s good; it squeezes out a final few tenths.

After the season-ending race in Valencia you stayed on at the Ricardo Tormo circuit for the first pre-season test of 2014. How did it go?

The test was huge. For Yamaha to have the faith in me to give me the new bike was awesome! It proves I’ve stepped up to a level where I deserve it and that was a big milestone for me, to lift my game and do a really competitive lap time - really important and a huge thing going into the winter, to give focus and a good boost of confidence to have another successful year. That always helps.

Perhaps your biggest decision of the off-season will involve location: stay in your adopted home of Andorra or spend some time back in England?

Obviously, there is quite a bit of down time between now and the first test of 2014 in Malaysia. A lot of it dictates on the training programme and what I decide to do. Andorra is a fantastic place and it is really geared up for the cold weather; I have had a fantastic few weeks there since the end of the season and I’ll be excited to head back there again, but of course it is also nice to see the family and friends back in Oxford, who you can’t see much during the year thanks to the chaotic world of MotoGP™! Either way, I’m not swanning off to the sunshine of America this year; I’m gutted I’m not going, but I will be focusing more on training in Europe.

Do you spend much of your free time watching back the season gone by?

This year I haven’t been able to watch a lot, but it would be nice to watch the clips of myself and the other Yamaha riders to see what they are doing, in order to help take my riding to the next level. You can take a lot from the videos: what to expect in races, how the dynamics go, looking at lap times and so on. Qualifying and the first five laps of races are particularly key, so I believe there is a lot to learn from watching videos and that type of thing. You’ve always got to do your homework!

So, right now, what is the Bradley Smith target for the 2014 MotoGP™ season?

To fight with the satellite bikes. It’s not what Cal did, as he obviously finished on the podium and did a lot of great things this year. It’s probably a step back from that: to battle with Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) and Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP). In some races I plan to get the better of them, which they will also do with me at times.

The most important question of all: how does a super fit, professional MotoGP™ rider stop themself from eating too many chocolates and cakes at Christmas?!...

[Laughs] It’s a killer! But at the end of the day it’s a lifestyle. We are lucky that we have a motorbike to carry us round the race tracks. I’m sure other sports are even worse; for jockeys, in particular, Christmas must be nightmare! I’m lucky there are several weeks between Christmas and the start of the season, so if I do over-indulge a bit I’ll have plenty of time to work it off!

Tags:
MotoGP, 2014, Bradley Smith, Monster Yamaha Tech 3

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