Author: Oli Rushby in Qatar Pics: Gold & Goose Posted: 20 Mar 2016
Bradley Smith has said he believes the KTM MotoGP project is ‘built’ for him after signing a two-year deal with the factory for the 2017/18 seasons.
Just days after Smith announced he wouldn’t continue with the Tech 3 Yamaha team next season the Briton revealed live on BT Sport that he would switch to the Austrian factory in 2017.
Talking to reporters for the first time about the deal, Smith said the development aspect is something he is looking forward to getting involved with after three years in a satellite team with little to no development input.
“I believe it is a project which is built for me,” Smith told reporters in Qatar. “It’ll be taking a new project along and being part of the development along, which is something that really caught me eye. I don’t usually take the easy route and I think everybody involved knows how hard it is going to be but I believe there are a lot of talented guys at KTM and they are all highly motivated and willing to do a great job.
“It’s taking a bike from scratch really. They are going to do a year of development but next year will be its first in MotoGP. I’m really looking forward to being part of the project and rather than just riding with what we have, we can be involved in the development and come up with ideas. I think there is something I can add to that process. That’s what I’m excited about.
“As a manufacturer, everything they’ve turned their hand to has been very successful from motocross to off-road, to enduro and now Moto3 as well. You have to believe they will do the same in MotoGP.”
Smith was adamant about becoming a factory rider for the 2017 season and knowing he wouldn’t stand much chance with Yamaha or Honda, who will either keep their well-established talent or go for someone younger, he immediately began to investigate the other options and says it was not a decision he took lightly.
“I visited the factory, I had to see with my own eyes to see what is going on but I haven’t seen the bike. To be honest, I don’t need to see it or do too much with it. That’ll be in 17 races time. I’ve told KTM I’m 100% with the Tech 3 team until the day after the last race and then I’ll switch to their team, but until then I’ve got a job to do with Yamaha and all of our sponsors. I won’t be changing my hat until it’s time.
The news came as little surprise after he was linked to a KTM deal last year, but many were shocked that a deal could be sewn up so early in the season. Smith is just the second rider out of contract to confirm his place on the 2017 grid after Valentino Rossi announced an extension of his contract with Yamaha on Friday.
It feels surreal to have it all done so early and be stood here talking to you guys about 2017 when we’ve only just done the first race, but it was important for me. Especially after the situation I had in Sachsenring two years ago where there was a lot going on inside my head thinking about where I’d be riding the next year and I ended up having a bit of a meltdown. I wanted to make sure that wasn’t going to happen this season so to get it sewn up before the first race means I can focus on the Tech 3 project and making sure I’m top satellite this year. It is a weird feeling, but it gives me great confidence knowing something is there for the future.