Posted: 05 Jan 2014
Going into MotoGP 2014, Bradley Smith is somewhat of an unknown quantity despite having already spent one season in the premier class. The Oxfordshire lad turned a few heads in November as he put in impressive lap times during the post season tests at Valencia, but he’s never exactly been slow. Finishing tenth in the 2013 season with a best result of sixth, Smith’s 114 points bettered the rookie campaigns of compatriots Cal Crutchlow and James Toseland. In fact, Smith took a whopping 46 more points in 2013 than Crutchlow took in 2011. It’s quite easy to forget the twenty-three year old finished second in the 2009 125cc Grand Prix Championship.
Smith came to the World Championships in 2006 as he joined the Repsol Honda 125cc squad, managed by proven MotoGP talent-spotter Alberto Puig (the man known for bringing the likes of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner to MotoGP). He finished nineteenth that year with just three points finishes but a strong ride to eighth at Motegi saw Puig give Smith another shot in 2007.
Despite a tough start to the season, Smith repeated his eighth place best result twice in succession at Istanbul and Shanghai, going on to take his debut Grand Prix podium in just the fifth round that season at Le Mans. Seven more top-ten finishes that season saw him finish tenth overall in the championship.
Knowing it’d be hard to get any further in the 125cc Championship on board Honda machinery, Smith made the switch to Aprilia for 2008 with the Polaris World squad. He got off to an electric start under the floodlights of Qatar as he set pole position and shot off in the lead of the race. Unfortunately a technical issue thwarted any chance of a debut victory. He came back fighting at the next round in Jerez to take third place and bettered that with a career-best second place at Le Mans after two successive DNFs. Unfortunately for Smith, a couple of mid-season injuries held him back towards the back end of the season, seeing him take just two more podiums that season.
For 2009, Smith signed for Jorge Martinez’s Aspar Racing Team alongside Julian Simon. That long-awaited debut victory came for the Brit just three-rounds in at Jerez, a feat he repeated from pole position just two rounds later at Mugello to jump into the lead of the championship. Despite seven more podium finishes that season, he couldn’t keep up with his team mate in the points, finishing second in the title chase.
Aspar were unable to find Smith a seat for the inaugural Moto2 season, so the Oxfordshire rider remained in the 125cc class for 2010. By this point, he was getting just that bit too big for the nimble 125cc machines meaning he’d often miss out on the battle up front. Smith took just six podiums that season taking fourth place overall after only finishing outside the top six twice. He did manage to stomp to victory in the final race of the season at Valencia however.
Smith’s ambition to move to Moto2 was fulfilled in 2011 as he stepped up with Herve Poncheral’s Tech 3 squad. A fourth place at Jerez hinted towards the Brit having potential in the middleweight class and he went on to show this further with a second place finish at Silverstone and two third-places consecutively after this. Unfortunately it went downhill from there for him, as he struggled towards the end of the season meaning he’d finish seventh overall.
Despite a podiumless season on board the Tech 3 Mistral 610, Smith remains the most successful Tech 3 Moto2 rider to date. For this, Poncheral rewarded the youngster with a shot at MotoGP for 2013. Twelve top ten finishes saw the Yamaha rider finish tenth in the championship, well ahead of fellow rookie Andrea Iannone. The Rookie of the Year title was a little unreachable however, because of a chap called Marc Marquez. Smith showed clear improvement throughout his year with Tech 3 and his times in post-season testing should have been no surprise. He has the potential to impress for 2014, something the Brits may need should Crutchlow not see improvements to Ducati’s troublesome Desmosedici.