The man who gave Bradley Smith his big world championship break has paid tribute to the British teenager after his historic career first 125 GP podium in Le Mans last weekend.
Alberto Puig selected Smith for the MotoGP Academy in 2005 and formed the Repsol Honda 125 team for the Oxfordshire rider to showcase his talent on the world stage last year.
And the Spaniard, who mentors triple world champion Dani Pedrosa, told MCN he is delighted with the progress being made by Smith.
Smith made his big GP breakthrough in France when he finished third to become the youngest British rider in history to claim a world championship podium.
And Puig said: “He was fast during the weekend so he had that in his mind and that gave him strength. I think he did a perfect job. The thing that was good was that he started on Friday morning and was there at the front.
“He did a really, really good job and now he understands he can do it. Of course he has a lot to learn, but he understands the situation. As I’ve said before he is really smart.
“And this is a good thing that he has. And also now he is proving to be fast and for me this is a good combination. I’m not saying that it’s all done but the starting point from now looks all good.”
Puig reckons Smith has been building up to his first podium since the second half of his rookie campaign in 2006, when he started edging closer to the top six with the more experience he gained.
“The way he ended the year he made a step from mid-season, and this year his level also increased. But before Le Mans he could never put it all together.
“In China he was also fast but he had some problems with the tyre and could not do it. Now in Le Mans it all went ok. We have worked with him for that and it is great for him because it is not easy to be on the podium.”
Puig said he liked Smith for his work ethic and willingness to learn and develop. Smith is already being touted as one of the brightest prospects in world championship racing having ended an 18-year drought for a British rider to claim a 125 GP rostrum.
“From the beginning when we bought him to the Academy, he was a calm guy and he understands when you talk. He thinks and then he tries to do what people tell him. But he is also fast.
“If he is not fast then it is not possible but I think that Bradley is doing the steps the way they should be done. He will get better and better every weekend. That’s racing.
“If you have the talent and you are fast you improve every weekend with new experiences,” said Puig, who also helped Toni Elias and Casey Stoner in the early part of their racing careers.
Puig said he would not be putting any pressure on Smith to emulate his brilliant French success immediately.
He added: “We can’t expect every week that he is on the podium but we only expect that he gets more experience and he learns. We know we have a fast and clever guy and we will work in the same direction to try and help in the best way we can.
“We don’t have to set a target. The target is that he learns and he is doing this because he is getting good results.”
Smith has already hinted earlier in the year that he would favour a switch to the world 250 championship in 2008, but Puig said it was way too early to discuss his future.