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'I want to show what Bradley Smith can still do...'

This year’s drama, trials and tribulations at Aprilia have kept the entire MotoGP community firmly on their toes but none more so than rider Bradley Smith.

Originally hired as the Noale factory’s test rider, the Oxfordshire man was drafted into the race seat just weeks before the opening round at Jerez and initially told he would be utilised for the two back-to-back Spanish outings in July. Iannone’s court proceedings were eventually scheduled for late October, seeing Smith compete on the RS-GP for the majority of the season but the race weekends maintained a heavy mix of developmental duties alongside the ‘typical’ schedule. Smith missed out on Valencia and Portimao as second tester, Lorenzo Savadori, was gifted the final three rounds after securing the Italian CIV title, although the 27-year-old’s track time came without the pressures of development.

We caught up with Smith shortly after his - quieter than planned - 30th birthday celebrations to reflect on an unpredictable year, how he balanced being test and race rider simultaneously and what Aprilia’s strengths and weakness are so far.


“Looking back at the season I really feel I extracted the most I could, considering the package I was on and the circumstances I was in. Being a replacement rider was never going to be easy, even more so after a season away from MotoGP. Development was still my main priority throughout 2020 and that showed most weekends with my results compared to Aleix.

"Rear grip is still our main focus at Aprilia, we had good performances at tracks that had been resurfaced in the last couple of years but struggled at the low grip venues. On its strengths, it gives good feel with the front tyre and turning is pretty comparable with the best bikes out there."

Last month saw Aprilia announce that both Smith and Savadori were staying with the outfit for the 2021 contest but their specific roles have yet to be finalised within the team, instead stating “the roles of second rider and test rider will be decided at the end of the winter test schedule”. Initial speculation suggested the question mark over who will get the race seat could interfere or detract from winter testing duties but Smith remains positive and confident of the task in hand.

I think things will be made clear at Aprilia before 2021 gets underway. The Jerez test went well for me, the feedback on the 2021 bike was positive and my lap-times were plenty fast enough compared to my ‘rival’ so to speak.

“There is so much more to racing than what you can see from the comfort of your own sofa or even trackside for that matter. It's hard to develop a motorcycle against guys that are racing their 100% maximum for a championship but I knew my job when I signed and as I said at the beginning, I am happy with the work and the job I did. LeMans was one of the very few times that I didn't have to develop, because of the rain, and the performance reflected that.”

Despite only recently turning 30, the Brit has already amassed 15 seasons inside the GP paddock, and while he’s had tough years to contend with, appears to remain as hungry to compete and dedicated to his GP career as ever.

“2019 was a difficult season for me mentally, KTM decided to take Zarco which would have been fine if he actually showed anything like the performances that I had during the 2018 season. Seeing him quit and throw in the towel hurt me even more, I couldn't just shrug it off and that showed me I wasn't ready to retire. 2021 would be my 16th season in GPs and I love racing motorcycles just as much as when it all began.”

With Valentino Rossi’s VR46 squad now officially taking its first steps into the GP class and the Italian’s much-discussed move towards full-time team management edging closer every year has Smith ever entertained the idea of running his own team in the future?

“Team ownership is something that is very complex and something far away from the skills I know and use as a racer. I can bring much more value to the sport in other roles that wouldn't take up as much of my time, so I could focus on other interests/hobbies or things I have neglected during my professional career.”

While next year has yet to be officially determined, off-season training is usually one thing that the riders can control, 2020, however, has made even that unpredictable, so how does Smith plan to spend the winter months?


“I think we are all in the hands of Covid-19 and that dictates much of what we can and can't do. I will be based in the South of France for the majority of the off-season, cycling and motocrossing when the rules allow. You will also find me doing home workouts on my balcony with my trainer through Zoom or Instagram videos, much like everyone did in quarantine.

“I've got some amazing friends that I celebrated my birthday with - go karting and hamburgers to make me feel young at 30 - it was the best we could manage with social distancing. Regarding Christmas, I will be home for a week with the family. I haven't had the chance to be with them much this year, so I'm very much looking forward to that!"

Next year should provide the opportunity to explore new additions to the MotoGP calendar so have any sparked his interest?

“I mean there could be a few if we make it to any of the reserve circuits. Portimao has always been on my list and I loved the one-day test I did there a few months ago. Indonesia looks such a unique project and it would be special to ride there. Russia I have never been to, so that would give me a chance to stay on and visit. Finland I have a two-day head start on everybody because of the test I did last year... So to answer your questions. ALL of them! I just love racing motorcycles!”


Reflecting on the disruptions faced this year, there was one circuit’s absence that was notably felt: “I missed Mugello so much this year, I absolutely love riding there, always have done since my early years. The track layout is amazing and who doesn't love a Sunday in the Tuscan hillside with 100,000 bike-crazy Italians?”

“I've also really appreciated all the fans who have watched and supported from home and all the people that helped to make the MotoGP Championship possible this year. I am one of the fortunate guys who gets to do what he loves for a living, and through these difficult times for everyone, I have been fortunate to keep my job and I don't take that for granted.”

And if everything goes to plan for 2021, what would be his ideal year?

“The full-time seat alongside Aleix, with a better balance between racing and testing. I want to show what Bradley Smith can still do and not have to just wait for it to rain for a few sessions a year.”

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