Smith storms to French front row

1 of 1

British teenager Bradley Smith produced a stunning last lap to claim his best ever world 125 championship qualifying position for tomorrow’s French GP in Le Mans.

The 16-year-old claimed a brilliant second place on the grid after a dramatic ending to the 30-minute session.

In the closing stages, Smith had been bumped into fifth position and off the front row, but rode a brilliant last lap to catapult himself into second position.
It is the Repsol Honda rider’s first ever front row start, and his best ever qualifying position, beating his previous best fifth place on the grid earlier this month in Shanghai.

An ecstatic Smith, who is desperate to better his career best finish of eighth place in tomorrow’s 24-lap race, told MCN: “The last lap my time was only coming down in small tenths and I really thought I need to do better than this but I knew I could put it all together. I left it a bit late but I got it in there. There were a lot of riders on 43.7, which meant I’d have been bumped off the front row. But I’m happy enough. It’s a great feeling. I looked down on the dash and saw 43.5 and thought ‘that will do, I can’t do much more than that.’ I was happy to have done that time but later on in the lap I looked at the big screen and was quite surprised to see myself second. I’m mega happy.”

Smith has not finished outside of the top three in any of the four practice and qualifying sessions in Le Mans, and he said the main focus now was to put behind a bitterly disappointing performance in the Shanghai GP behind him. Although he was only 2.4s off winning in the Far East, he was only eighth and he added: “I was a bit bummed out with eighth in China so I have come here with a point to prove. I was fifth on the grid in China so knew I could get a good position here but I’m a bit surprised not to have been ever outside the top three. But I’ll take it.”

Looking ahead to his prospects for tomorrow’s race, Smith was keeping his feet on the ground and refusing to make any bold predictions about his podium or victory chances.

He said: “It all depends on the start. The first lap will be important but I’m confident my race pace will be good and I’ve got to make sure I don’t make any mistakes and lose the group. I think on this track it will be difficult to catch up again. Races never pan out how you think they will but the plan is good start, good first corner and head down.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt