Bradley Smith fastest in Spain

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Bradley Smith vowed to keep his feet firmly on the ground as Britain’s top young prospect made a sensational start to his 2008 125GP world championship bid.

Making his first appearance on the 2008 Polaris World Aprilia RS machine in Jerez last week, Smith stunned the paddock by topping the timesheets.

Smith, who became the youngest British rider in history to claim a world championship podium last season with third in Le Mans, was the only rider to break the 1.47 barrier in Spain. He clocked a 1.46.86 to leave reigning world champion Gabor Talmacsi trailing 0.3s behind him in second place.

Smith, who spent his first two seasons in GPs riding for the Repsol Hond team, told MCN: “I’m a little bit surprised but to do the lap time and get the good feeling I did with the bike made me more happy than being fastest really.

“We didn’t do anything too crazy and just worked on the November test settings and I got more and more confident with the bike. When it was time to put the new tyres and try for a lap time I saw 46.8 and I thought the reading was wrong. I didn’t think that time was going to be possible. To do that I’m really chuffed but I was just happy with how we worked and the lap time and being fastest was a bonus.

“From the first day to the last day I improved by 1.9s. I did a 48.7 on the first and day and finished with a 46.8 so it shows I was getting more and more confident on the bike. It was good being able to go out straightaway after a long lay-off and the change from Honda to Aprilia and go fast immediately.

“It is only the first test and I’m not getting carried away. We’ve got to keep on this form right through to the first race and beyond that. But the more time I get on the bike the faster I’ll go hopefully.”

Smith said the difference between the 2007 bike he rode on his Aprilia debut in Jerez last November and the updated ’08 version were minimal, adding: “There is not much difference and its more options you have to move things around rather than totally different. It was the 2008 bike but we used the 2007 set-up and didn’t change too much.

“We managed to get more feedback from the bike, which was better for me because the Honda did squirm around a lot. With more feeling the more I understand what’s going on and the quicker I can open the throttle and the faster I go down the straight. The things that I was trying to make better with the Honda with settings is already what the Aprilia has.

I think the Honda had a bit too much weight transfer which sounds silly for a 125, but where they so fast going into the corners, the less transfer going into those corners the more stable you are and the more speed you can carry.

The speed of the Aprilia engine is clear as well because a lot of people were coming past me on the straight last year, and I always knew this engine was going to be fast which I’m happier about. It has performance that the Honda didn’t have.”

Smith is back on track in Valencia this week for another three-day test starting tomorrow (Tuesday).

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt