Going Places: That "Smith Kid" Is Worthy
by dean adams
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Question: Why is Tech 3 Yamaha rider Bradley Smith in MotoGP?
Answer: Because he deserves to be there.
I have not spoken directly to Brad Smith for more than a few minutes but I have stood to the side and observed him at work this summer. What I have seen of this Smith kid has left me very impressed.
Bradley Smith came to Grand Prix with a backdrop chorus of voices wondering how exactly this happened, that a seemingly mostly unremarkable via the results spreadsheet rider finds himself racing a satellite Yamaha MotoGP bike. Based on results alone there must have been at least a half dozen other young-ish riders who deserved to have that ride. Jon Rea, Aleix Espargaro, Pol Espargaro, Chaz Davies and several others, if they'd have been handed the Tech 3 ride the reaction would have been, 'Right, good man, deserved it.'
It stings to admit that Herve Poncheral, Tech 3 principal, is right about something as controversial as hiring Brad Smith, but full credit must be given to "Ponch", and also Alberto Puig. Puig helped Smith early in his career and frankly forced teams to take him when they wanted other riders instead. Smith, so full of potential, may very well be one of Yamaha's strongest riders in 2014.
After watching Brad Smith in the paddock, on the track and hanging out this past summer, the way I see it, his qualities as a rider are these:
He's smart. Bradley Smith is probably one of the smartest riders I've been around. His intelligence is clear if you talk with him, he has a keen curiosity and a very strong analytical presence. Time and again I saw him pick situations and questions apart, trying to understand what his M1 was doing or how different riders were approaching sections of racetrack. He didn't sound a whole lot like a rookie when he did so.
He's mentally strong. MotoGP is a brutal work environment for a young rider. The bikes are so fast and do not tolerate mistakes; the first year is basically spent trying to find some level of understanding while hanging on for dear life. And just when you think you maybe have the hang of this MotoGP stuff the next thing you know you have a mouth full of dirt and they are calling for an ambulance. Smith has maintained a very realistic outlook for a rookie. No euphoria, no depression, just keep calm and learn.
He's grounded in realistic expectations. Someone asked that Smith kid after Indy if he expected to get new parts for his M1 soon, make him a little more competitive. Smith, to his credit, said, no, that's not the way it works. "The bike I am riding is the one that Jorge Lorenzo won the MotoGP title on last year. It is fully capable. I just need to learn more about it and how to ride it. New parts would probably only slow that process down," he said.
He's capable. There have been ugly moments for that Smith kid in 2013, but for the most part he has done a more than admirable job of staying on top of and staying on the racing line for entire sessions and races. That's not a happy accident. Smith has a very strong foundation as a rider. It will serve him well in the final chunk of the '13 season and beyond.
He has basically no ego. James Toseland's rookie MotoGP days wrote checks that he was unable to cover when he was later supposed to be finding success as an experienced MotoGP rider. I don't see that Smith kid poaching his teammate's crewchief or later telling me that he's really worried about how this racing business will impact his music career. I don't see that Smith kid being crushed under a ton of a million British GP fans expectations. He's a rider so he must have an ego somewhere, but at the moment I see more sponge than ego in Smith. A sponge sucking in every dollop of info he can source about how to ride MotoGP.
He's resilient. There is a famous story from the 1983 500cc world championship season concerning Eddie Lawson. Lawson left America as the best rider in the States, went Grand Prix the next season and found largely hardship and struggle. The bike was an evil weapon trying to maim him, the tracks were slippery mysteries and through it all the press wanted to know why Yamaha hadn't hired Barry Sheene instead of Lawson. At one track, Lawson's bike ran out of gas in practice and he had to walk back to the paddock. He bypassed the garage and instead went to his motorhome where the frustration and anger welled up and he broke down and cried. The shock and brutality of his rookie GP season almost broke the rock that is Eddie Lawson, and it has broken many riders since then.
His rookie season has already almost cost that Smith kid a finger but he's handled it, all of it, with a very impressive level of maturity and grace.
MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez makes history almost every time he rides now and he's single-handily changed the way people consider "alien" riders like Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi. But Marquez isn't the only rookie story of the 2013 MotoGP season. I look forward to seeing that Smith kid ride after he's had a nice dose of success in a MotoGP race, because he seems to have one of the strongest foundations as a rider I've seen. With that bedrock of understanding, that intelligence, and with an injection of confidence that Smith kid could turn everything he has learned so far in MotoGP into something very impressive indeed.
| HOME | RETURN
1997 - 2012 Hardscrabble Media LLC