Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Bradley Smith – 8/10

01/11/2014 @ 1:07 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Bradley Smith – 8/10 2014 Friday Valencia MotoGP Scott Jones 10 635x422

In the final chapter of our series running down the top ten finishers of the 2013 MotoGP season, we come to Bradley Smith. Here’s a look at how his first year in the premier class went. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlowpart 6, Alvaro Bautistapart 7, Stefan Bradlpart 8, Andrea Dovizioso; and part 9, Nicky Hayden.

Pity poor Bradley Smith. The young Englishman came in to MotoGP as a rookie, and did exactly what he was supposed to do: learn slowly, not crash too much, see his times and results improve gradually throughout the season. In any other year, Smith would have received quiet praise for the steady job he did.

But this was not any other year. This was the year that Marc Marquez moved up to MotoGP, destroying records and utterly redefining what is expected of a rookie. While Smith was steadily improving to go from finishing in the top ten to ending in the top six, Marquez was amassing podiums, wins, and well on his way to taking the title at the first attempt.

Smith found himself being compared to the phenomenon that was Marquez, rather than the more realistic comparison with the rookie seasons of other MotoGP riders.

Take Marquez out of the equation – an almost impossible exercise, admittedly – and Smith looks a lot better. Map Smith’s season against that of Stefan Bradl in 2012, and the Englishman’s performance looks much better. Smith finished his year with 116 points, while Bradl took 135 in his first year.

Bradl’s point tally was boosted a little by Casey Stoner’s absence through injury, and the dismal season Ben Spies had on the factory Yamaha. Smith finished more races in his rookie year than Bradl did, but when he did crash, he badly injured his hand, fracturing his wrist and destroying his little finger.

Smith’s biggest challenge was changing his style around completely. He had to unlearn the habits picked up in Moto2, of pushing hard, braking late, throwing the bike around. Instead, he had to concentrate on being smooth, braking earlier, releasing the brakes earlier, and relaxing.

The more he learned to relax, he would tell reporters, the faster he would go. However, trying to relax and be smooth is one of the hardest things to do on a 260hp motorcycle capable of of 350 km/h with a body full of adrenaline.

Smith spent the first half of the season just getting to grips with the bike. In the second half, things improved, Smith’s intelligence shining through, his ability to analyze problems a great asset for the team.

Sometimes, that meant one step forward and two steps back, such as at Brno, where Smith was excellent throughout practice, only to find himself crashing out of the race. But by the end of the season, Smith proved himself capable of matching the pace of the satellite Hondas, finally shaking off his season-long battles with the Ducatis.

Smith spent 2013 riding the bike raced by Jorge Lorenzo in 2012, receiving few updates during the year. That is the fate of a satellite rider, and he accepted it with good grace. In 2014, Smith will have the same equipment as his teammate Pol Espargaro, and have support very close to factory level. Then we will see what his potential truly is.

High Point:

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Bradley Smith – 8/10 Sunday Valencian GP MotoGP Valencia Scott Jones 12 635x423

If the middle part of Bradley Smith’s season was a little frustrating, it ended on a much more positive note. Smith rode confidently, his understanding of the bike greatly improved, as well as his ability to set it up and get it to do what he wanted.

There was not really a single moment in Smith’s season you can point to and say, that was his best moment. But the upward momentum and real forward progress gave him the boost he was chasing.

Low Point:

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Bradley Smith – 8/10 Saturday Indianapolis GP MotoGP Scott Jones 02 635x422

The first part of the season would be tough for Bradley Smith. The inevitable (and slightly unfair) comparisons with Marc Marquez meant he faced a lot of criticism from his home fans. An ugly crash at Mugello saw him crack his wrist and badly mangle the little finger on his left hand.

The skin graft didn’t not take particularly well, and then rumors emerged that Smith could be forced out of his contract with Tech 3 to make way for Pol Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow. Once Crutchlow left for Ducati, Smith’s seat was safe, but all in all, it was a tough couple of months for the English rookie.

Photos: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Comment:

  1. Rad Rage says:

    People have been on his case, especially his compatriots about how he doesn’t deserve the ride and that he is a sub par rider. The guy kept improving steadily and graudally, I’m sure he will perform better next season. Whether he achieves the results is difficult to tell since there is a lot of new (and capable) blood whilst the dominant forces are still there improving every season.

    I think the rider who really couldn’t be in a worse situation is Iannone, he can ride very well but is stuck on the Ducati, I feel like crap for him.

  2. Tom says:

    I was very impressed by Bradders all season long. I thought he showed patience, maturity and intelligence. Whilst he was slightly frustrating to watch at first, in the long run he made the right choice to go softly at first and then harder when he found his feet. As a fellow Brit, I love Bradley and loathe Pol Espargaro (in the spirit of sport, I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice chap) so I’m very much looking forward to watching the two of them tussle next season; and with any luck, Scott Redding might be working his way up to their cluster of riders by mid season. Go on Bradders, do it for the Brits!

  3. Rad Rage says:

    I understand that you hate Espargaro in the spirit of sport, but is there a particular reason, or is it just beceause he’ll be Bradley’s direct competitor?

  4. brian says:

    Rad Rage, I’m with Tom. while i sorta HAVE TO root for Espargaro (my company being one of the sponsors of Tech 3), I also quietly root for all non-spanish riders to win; even the Italians! Nothing personal against the Spaniards, I’d just like hear another country’s national anthem playing from time to time.

  5. Tom says:

    Absolutely Brian – it’s to do with his fight with Scott Redding in the Moto2 this year. Scott is English so he’s the ‘home team’ as it were. Pol was his biggest/only true competition for most of the season. (That, and he’s rather smug. But then I probably would be to if I could throw around a bike like they could!)

  6. smiler says:

    I dislike Pol Paella because of the advantages afforded to Spanish Riders by Dorna, the fact that 4/19 rounds of the series are held in Spain, that several of the biggest sponsors are Spanish and the worst of it that the Spanish CEV series is overtly supported by Dorna who have pushed for it to be incorporated into the FIM and even carry its results on their website.
    In no other type of motorsport or sport are the Spanish so prevalent. You have to wonder, is it because of natural and genetic talent or Dorna’s presence. @30% of the roders in MotoGP are Spanish to the detriment of all other nations trying to compete.
    However I’m sure Pol Paella is a thoroughly nice bloke, just as Marquez is a great and charismatic ambassador for MotoGP.
    No wonder Rossi is setting up a Moto3 team.

    As for Bradders, steady Eddy has had a good year. i hope he is mentally strong enough to hold off the rice threat.

  7. Rad Rage says:

    I’m with you guys; I absolutely hate the Spanish monopolization of the sport, there are so many tracks that should be brought back, even though I love the most of the Spanish tracks, diversity is much more important. It’s not really fair to hate the Spanish riders because of the actions of Dorna but I understand where you are coming from.

  8. L2C says:

    I enjoyed hearing Bradley’s take on various issues in MotoGP, and reading his blog over at Crash.net, rather than watching him ride last season. Like many others, I wasn’t convinced of his ability to ride in the premier class, but his analytical mind and calm demeanor certainly helped him to perform better in his rookie season than Cal Crutchlow did in his.

    The 2014 season could see major improvement from Bradley because his ability to mind the details and simultaneously focus on the big picture could have many of his rivals at a disadvantage already. The tendency is for riders to focus on speed and parts, whereas Bradley focuses on making the most of what he has at his disposal. His approach is to show improvement and beat his rivals one way or another, not make excuses for falling short. And he’s a keen observer of the strengths and weaknesses of not only himself, but also his competition.

    Smith has the full support and faith of Tech 3 Yamaha behind him, and he’s on a roll. He’s almost certain to improve his standing this year. Personally, I think he knows more than a little bit about the art of surprise. Being off everyone’s radar has its advantages, and Bradley is the kind of person who would be aware of this.

  9. 2ndclass says:

    @smiler:

    “In no other type of motorsport or sport are the Spanish so prevalent. You have to wonder, is it because of natural and genetic talent or Dorna’s presence. @30% of the roders in MotoGP are Spanish to the detriment of all other nations trying to compete.”

    The Spanish domination is because they have really built up an amazing feeder system through their domestic series’ and the Spanish just love motorcycle racing. Their domestic series’ have plenty of support from both fans and sponsors so they can run academies, have regional series’ as well as national, and therefore can run domestic Moto2 and 3 championships, giving their kids a huge advantage when they step up to the world championship.

    The Spanish are dominating because, frankly, they put in the hard yards and deserve it.

  10. Faust says:

    Dovi is 5/10 and you rate Smith 8/10? Please stop this arbitrary and pointless rating system and just write about the riders.

  11. tonifumi says:

    100% correct Faust.

    His ratings are ridiculous. David is embedded in Motogp, which is great for us because we get detailed and inside information on how teams/riders operate. However it also means he is captive to them and can’t criticize them because it will limit access in future.

    9 for Marquez, 9 for Pedrosa and 8 for Smith !!! David, stop – you are making yourself look stupid.

    Don’t rate riders because 1) it is silly and 2) because you can’t do it for fear of consequences.

  12. L2C says:

    Yeah, Bradley and Valentino are most definitely NOT on equal terms. That’s just David being nice to a fellow Brit. It’s an extra star or two for “Most Improved Rider of the Year.” Which is actually just about right because performance-wise, Alvaro and Stefan smoked Bradley. But Bradley gets the extra because he was a rookie.

    But, yeah, Dovi and Hayden should have been awarded equal ratings. 5/10, 6/10, whatever. To me, their seasons were nearly identical.

    Of course, Aleix Espargaro deserves at least a 9/10 for the performance he gave on his CRT last year. I think that would be understandable, even though he finished 11th overall. He rode well above his class. “Honorable Mention” would not be out of place.

  13. meatspin says:

    i cant believe are giving david emmett words over his rating system. Its meaningless as its just an arbitrary number he came up with. Its the only thing i’ve seen that people have zeroed in on here and on motomatters. The article is where the meat is, not some silly number.

    I would like to think mr. emmett is having a good laugh at the rage his little numbers are giving people.

  14. L2C says:

    Words are words.

    “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

    “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

    People and things will be affected. Not a laughing matter, really. Except when it is.

  15. Chaz Michael Michaels says:

    This rating system is totally bass ackwards.

    we should be rating their girlfriends.

    DiPuniet: 10/10
    Rossi: 9/10
    Hayden: 8/10

  16. Frank says:

    David’s rating system may appear to be arbitrary, but I believe that his ratings are all based on context – that is, in the context of the expectations and situations specific to each rider. Therefore, even though Dovi may be a better rider than Bradley Smith, he languished on the Ducati. He got beat to the line a few times by Hayden who was then let go by the factory and really moved backwards in terms of results and even lap times from his previous year. The expectations there were certainly the opposite in the pre-season. Bradley Smith on the other hand rode quite well given the lack of expectations he had coming in for his rookie season. He was overshadowed by MM but held his own and showed a lot of growth and maturity. There is promise for Smith going into next season. Much less for Dovi sadly. Hence Smith’s 8 and Dovi’s 5. I can kind of get behind the #s looking at it that way. JL and MM were both 10′s in my book. JL’s 9 only because he didn’t win the championship and MM’s 9 only because he nearly killed a few track marshalls.

    @Chaz – yeah, does RDP’s hiatus from the grid next year mean we will lose Lauren Vicker’s twitter feed on Motomatters?

  17. Chaz Michael Michaels says:

    I didn’t realize RDP was off the grid for 2014. Full time testing with Suzuki?

    @Frank, I think you’re right. on subject now–I think Smith was more of a 7/10 rider tops. He admittedly was still learning how to ride a motoGP bike for almost the first half of the season. I’d call Smith the most improved rider for sure, though.

    Also, I don’t think Dovi is a 5/10 rider. There is no way a rider as good (probably better than) Cructhlow could all of a sudden become way less a rider than Crutchlow in 1 season. We’ll see how Crutchlow does on the Ducati next to Dovi. In fact, I spent much of last season hating Dovi because I’m a huge Hayden fan and Dovi was just simply relentless race after race after race. Dovi is a great rider.

    An interesting question would be: who would have faired better in that 2nd factory Yamaha seat last season: Rossi, Dovi, or Crutchlow? Dovi is smoother than Crutchlow and (hate to say it) better than a now old/past it Rossi.

  18. Frank says:

    @Chaz – The Dovi/Crutchlow/Rossi question is a good one to think about. I agree that Dovi is a better than 5/10 rider and he beat Cal consistently on the Yamaha. I think Cal will have his hands full trying to best Dovi next year. I like Crutchlow and I liked seeing him step up this year. It was a little much when his fans were talking ‘alien’ status for him after a few podiums but it was all good fun.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what Pol can do on the Yamaha. He will definitely force the issue for Smith right away.