Bradley Smith Every Monday at 6.30pm, El Punt Avui TV airs the interview series, Going Native. This week, Neil talks to junior MotoGP rider Bradley Smith, who is based in Girona in the run-up to the new season.
You're new to MotoGP?
I've just started my third season in MotoGP and my 11th season in motorcycle racing.
When did you start racing?
I rode my first motorbike when I was six. I started doing motocross, until 13, and then I switched to road racing for two years. Then I was picked up by Alberto Puig and Dorna and went to the academy they set up in 2005. I did a season in the Spanish championship and turned pro in 2006 to go to the world championship with Honda.
Why give up motocross?
Off-road was something we all did as a family every weekend but it just got to the point where my dad fell out of love with the sport. He'd been doing it for too long and didn't see a future in it for me. Meanwhile, I wanted to go to championships but the chance of that was slim and something my dad didn't recommend, so he pushed me in another direction.
Do you live here now?
I have actually lived in Andorra since April 2013, but in winter I base myself in Girona, which has great facilities. There are a lot of world class athletes in Catalonia and I can do something every day with a world class athlete. I really like it here, it's quiet, easy-going and perfect for my travelling schedule.
Your upbringing was hardly normal. How has it affected you as a person?
I've had a blessed life and I've learnt a lot about the real world and travelled to different countries but I like to think I'm normal. I think motorcycle racing as a sport and an industry keeps you grounded. There are a lot of realistic people in the sport.
There's also a lot of competition for a young man.
We are very lucky that we get good support from Yamaha. We have to accept we are a satellite team and have to take results as we get them. But we also know we aren't fighting for a world championship; we're fighting for fourth, fifth, sixth. But you aspire to be in that factory team and at one point in your career, if you are good enough and fast enough, you will get there.
This is your third season. How has it gone so far?
My rookie season was OK, though I didn't do as well as other rookies. Obviously Marc Márquez came in and had a phenomenal rookie season, and last year in 2014 he did a phenomenal job as well. I could have done better, but last year I was pleased with the second half of my season. It took me 18 months to find my feet and get up to speed. But I'm pleased now for this season that I've got the confidence to push forward and hopefully go for the top satellite rider, which would be maybe fifth or sixth, and would put me in the shop window for a factory ride, if not in 2016 then in 2017.
How do you prepare?
We go through a normal training programme. We do one test for three days in Malaysia at the beginning of February. We go back there for four days at the end of February, and then we come back again and go to Qatar for a three-day test, we come back and then we start the season. We have nine or 10 days on track and try to cram in as much as possible, as much testing as possible, trying out different ideas and trying to find yourself a good solid motorcycle so you're ready to start the season.
What's it like riding at that sort of speed?
It's difficult to describe but when you're doing 360kph it actually feels slow. It would be different if you were doing it on the motorway but on a race track where everyone is going in the same direction it doesn't actually feel that fast. We are lucky that safety has improved so much in racing. If we do unfortunately have a crash, the safety barriers are far enough away and the gravel traps are there to catch you. It is very exciting to be able to ride a motorcycle that is basically the best motorcycle on the planet. It's very inspiring.
How much is talent and how much is the bike?
Once you get to the world championship, everyone is talented. In the end, the difference between us all is who is willing to put in that extra little bit. When you look at the MotoGP grid, we have 22 guys, 12 of whom have won a world championship in some form, while the others have been in the top three. So, we're talking about the world's very best. To separate yourself requires pulling all the small details together, whether working in the gym, or on your technique or learning to integrate the people around you. All the details count.
Any favourite tracks?
Obviously I've done my fair share around Spanish tracks. I do enjoy Montmeló; it's in my top three. But my absolute all-time favourite is Mugello. It's in the Tuscan hills and a real technical track but also it's a natural track as well. It's also the place where we normally set the top speed record for the season, so obviously it's very exciting to ride there.