There is an argument that exposing children to sport too early in their lives converts them into robotic racing clones, with brittle-thin personalities and narrow interests.
But you only had to see Bradley Smith’s comportment on the podium at Jerez and in the press conference after his first-ever 125cc victory to appreciate that he’s articulate, courteous and cultivated. Bradley, now 18, has always handled himself well, even from the era when he rode in his first grands prix in 2006.
Later in the paddock I bumped into Danny Webb, fresh from his eighth place in the 125cc race. The 18-year-old from Kent rested his forearms over the handlebars of his scooter, girl friend on the back in shorts and halter, and looked like a veteran of the GP paddock as he chatted about the tough race he’d had.
At 16, Scott Redding is the youngest of Britain’s hot young trio of 125cc contenders. When he won his first grand prix at Donington last year – and became the first Brit in 35 seasons to win a 125cc GP – he chatted easily to TV and national media and offered really sharp analysis on what he felt in the saddle as he steered to that historic victory.
If Broken Britain really is spewing illiterates out of its schools – as the poisonous Daily Mail would have you believe – they’re not finding their way into motorcycle racing. And the ones that do get into bikes early certainly don’t seem to be emotionally stunted by the experience.
Now that Bradley Smith has finally achieved his maiden victory after previously scoring four poles and five podium positions, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he now racked up a series of victories and won this year’s world title. He’ll handle himself well in the subsequent media melée if he does.