Dom Rushton Interviews Bradley Smith in January 2011
Posted on Jan 12, 2011 by Dominic Rushton
Dominic Rushton recently met up with Bradley at Smith HQ in Oxford for an in depth interview. Bradley gives his thoughts on the 2010 season, his 125cc career overall and how preparation for the year ahead in Moto2 is going.
DR: In your eyes was this season a disappointment?
BS: Yes, it was a disappointment. I believed that I was going to be world champion back in March - I'd been doing a lot of training over the winter months, I had finished second in 2009 and everything was looking really positive. But, as we know, everything that could have gone wrong did! Even though the problems were never really solved with regards to the bike, we soldiered on week after week and, looking back, I'm confident to say that I did the best that I could in the circumstances. Of course, the win in Valencia rubbed a lot of the disappointment away.
DR: How important was that last win of the season in Valencia? It seems that you were totally focused on that weekend - what gave you the edge on the day?
BS: I was just really determined to win after such a disappointing season. We'd had a test earlier on in the year, so we had a great base setting for the bike to work with, and to be honest I don't think we even modified the set-up at all on the day. We'd already been ticking off laps and laps of solid times, so it didn't make sense to modify the setup for the race. At first, I was really angry that I'd finished third in qualifying - I thought that all of that hard work hadn't paid off. But I got over that, and the next day on the grid I was probably the most relaxed rider there. To be honest the bike was still lacking speed on the straights, but the fact that we had a good chassis setup and I had a desire to win meant that I managed to pull it off.
DR: Looking back on your 125cc career overall, are you pleased with your achievements?
BS: Oh, absolutely. When I rolled into the championships back in 2006 and someone had told me that in four years I would have got three wins, over twenty podiums and a second place world championship finish then I wouldn’t have believed them. Plus the fact that I’ve been called the most successful British rider since Barry Sheene is just amazing - although no one will ever be as good as Barry was. If you pan out and look at everything I’ve done in the 125 years, then it’s pretty difficult for me not be happy with what I’ve achieved.
DR: It seems the Moto2 testing has been going well so far, and you seem to be adapting to the new bike very well. When you're on track, how is the new bike different when compared to the 125 bike?
BS: Mostly it comes down to all that power that wasn’t there before. The difference in those higher speed brackets is pretty noticeable - we’re talking the high hundreds here. So when you were at about 130 on the old bike, there wasn’t much grunt left. But now, we have a whole new speed range to play with, and the bike is much faster than anything I’m used to on the straights. The way the bike reacts to certain situations is also different. Obviously, the bike is heavier than the old 125 and through some of the corners the bike feels much more planted to the tarmac because of that extra weight. I was also really pleased to find out that the bike was more like a purpose built racing machine, rather than a CBR 600. With the standard CBR I felt that it was too loose and vague, but the Tech 3 bike feels so much more precise - it’s a world of difference. But you have to be very careful too - with the old bike, I could make a couple of mistakes and get away with it. But because the new bike has that extra power, the back end can just start sliding and it’s very difficult to regain control. You really have to be one step ahead of the bike. But I suppose in general terms the bike is not that different. As long as myself or any rider has the desire to do well then the bike takes a back seat role.
DR: Other than the bike, what will be the biggest change in joining a new team?
BS: The team not knowing me! Your mechanics need to know the way you work and function, the way your mind works and the way you give feedback. Even small things matter, like the way they talk to you. I have my own ritual when I get ready to go out on track - I have the same routine. You want to be able to do that without being hurried or pressured into a different routine by the team. Luckily, the Tech 3 guys have been great so far and have really allowed me to get back into the swing of things. I can’t understate how important it is to know your team and for your team to know you!
DR: You recently mentioned that you will have to do an extra 40 minutes of riding per race weekend in Moto2 - do you feel physically prepared to do this on a heavier bike?
BS: It’s gonna be tough, no question. The biggest thing I’m preparing for is the whole new category - it’s going to be stressful. It’s not like I’m going to be back on the 125 bike with the same leathers and gloves - it’s something completely different. Physically, I’m going to be on the bike for longer, and the extra weight it carries is going to be a big jump up. Interestingly, I didn’t feel that bothered about that extra weight the first time I jumped on the bike. I was putting in some flying laps, and I was coping absolutely fine. But then, after a good couple of hours, it hit me - I thought to myself, “I’m gonna have to ride this thing for almost another extra hour per weekend. I’m completely tired out after two.” I need to obviously give 100% mental strength, but you just can’t do that physically - at the moment, I’m using 100% of my strength to ride the bike and that’s just not acceptable. I need to be getting that number down to eighty, even seventy percent.
DR: Next season will arguably be your most difficult, not only because of the new bike but because of the Moto2 class itself - how different will it be riding on a Grid that is much larger than anything you've ridden in before?
BS: Oh man, it’s crazy! Honestly, sometimes when I’m watching the races I can’t believe that it’s even legal to have that many bikes out at the same time. Yes, it will be a big change. I’m going to have to start learning some backyard racing again! I’ve actually decided to do some Motocross as part of my training - get a few friends and go to a motocross event, and just get back into crowded racing with 40 other guys rather than just racing the track on my own. It’s going to be tough; Saturday qualifying is critical, and now that they’ve reduced it from four riders per row to three it’s going to matter even more. Even if you scrape into the top 15, you’re still on the fifth row. So, going back to the question, it’s going to be very different - qualifying is going to be arguably more important than the actual race itself.
DR: Who do you see as your main rival next year?
BS: All the newcomers. At the end of the day, they are my rivals for next year. I mean, I want to get points in every race but my overall goal is to get Rookie of the Year. It’s gonna be tough because there is going be loads of experienced top class riders but also a huge flood of rookies too - so if I can perform well enough to “stand out from the crowd” and be the best newcomer then I’ll be really happy.
DR: You're very lucky to have the expertise of Randy Mamola as a mentor and Colin Edwards as a fellow Tech3 team member - Have they been offering any advice in helping you prepare for next season?
BS: Colin has been great helping with development. The team and Bridgestone really rate him as a great test rider. For him to ride the bike and give such detailed feedback and advice is just brilliant and a great help. Obviously when we ride the bike as riders we will tune it to our liking, but to have someone as experienced as Colin come and fine tune a brand new bike to what he as a World Class racer feels is a good level is just brilliant. Randy got to test the bike in Valencia, so he’s now tested 13 different Moto2 team bikes. He’s given great feedback to everyone - I tell him what I feel on the bike, and compare notes with him to see if the changes and ideas we are implementing are being effective. It’s all about giving real time feedback, and he’s been brilliant doing that.
DR: What about your family - how much of a role have they played in supporting you?
BS: Oh, it’s never easy! Especially through hard moments, like my first year in 125’s, it was a struggle. I was very young and away from home, on my own. Then going to Polaris and struggling with some elements of the team and the bike - it’s not that easy for a 17 year old to suddenly have to deal with all these different people and race at your best every weekend. My dad is a great help as he goes to as many races as he can and acts as a “wingman” - he makes sure I’m doing everything right in the Paddock. And my family too - they all come to as many races and give support trackside. We try to keep family and racing life as separate as possible, and that’s the best thing about it - you know, my brother and sister have different interests at home and when I get back it’s nice just to sit down and do what they like to do. It’s great to come home from a hard weekend and be able to sit down with my brother and play on the Playstation for an afternoon and not have to worry about the next race weekend. We keep everything as normal as possible!
DR: What are your plans for the coming months? Will it be more training or a long rest?
BS: Pretty much I’ve had my rest now! It’s mainly training from now on. I’ve spent most of November doing training in the UK, and I’m off to SoCal in a few weeks - I’ll be doing as much endurance training and strength training as I can. The fact that I get to do it in sunny California weather isn’t that bad either! February will be the time for tweaking other parts of the bike and getting the setups for each track noted down and put together. Sure, there are a good few weeks left until the race in Qatar, but we have to make good use of every spare hour until then!
DR: Finally, what do you want to achieve next year?
BS: I’ve got to keep my goals general and in perspective. I still don’t know how I’m going to adapt to the bike - I feel quietly confident about my chances, but being quietly confident never got anyone anywhere. I’m still a year behind most of the grid in terms of experience, so I’m mainly going to be focusing on competing with the newcomers and rookies. I’m not going to get carried away and say I’ll be on the podium every week, that’s just plain silly. But without a doubt, I’ll always be pushing 100% to try and go for gold for the fans back home!