Bradley Smith was delighted and relieved after he became the first British rider to claim a 125GP pole position in over three decades tonight in Qatar.
The 17-year-old was the first Brit to top 125 qualifying since Chas Mortimer in the 1972 Belgian GP at Spa when a lap of 2:05.242 secured him his maiden pole from reigning world champion Gabor Talmacsi.
But while delighted as he was joined on the front row by outstanding British rookie Scott Redding, Smith was also relieved after he escaped injury in a big crash on his last flying lap.
Smith was on course to beat his best time when he high-sided his Polaris World Aprilia in the closing seconds, but only suffered a bang on his left ankle to add to the right arm injury he picked up in yesterday’s opening qualifying session.
“It is a great feeling to be on pole and to be the first British rider to do it for so many years. But to have crashed twice after setting my fastest lap its like, ‘come on, calm down a bit.’ But when you are going for pole you are just going all out,” said Smith.
“On the data I was going about 3ks faster but I was going for pole and going for a 2.04. That’s a second and a bit below he outright lap record so I was pushing hard and sometimes you got to be a bit more relaxed.
“Hitting the ground at that speed it is going to hurt but I’m fine. The rocks give you a pounding but I’ll get iced up and hopefully the bruises will come out by tomorrow.”
Speaking exclusively to MCN, Bradley Smith said he was also happy to have converted his impressive winter testing form into the new season.
He was fastest in three of the four 2008 pre-season tests and he has now topped the timesheets in all four sessions in Qatar.
Smith added: “It’s just nice that I have been able to carry on from testing to when it matters in a race weekend when you have only got 30 minutes and not all day to perform.”
Looking ahead to starting his first GP from pole position, Smith said: “We have got to wait and see because it will be different for everybody to ride 18 laps at night.
“We don’t know what will happen to the tyres and also you don’t know how the bike will handle in the first couple of laps because the tyres will be cold for sure. But obviously I can’t wait and I will be giving my maximum.”
With three British riders starting from the top five positions tomorrow night, Bradley Smith said he was looking forward to a potentially historic day for Britain.
He said: “It’s going to be good and hopefully everyone will be having their Sunday dinner at home at about 5pm watching the race.
“I’m just waiting to see how it all turns out and hopefully I’ll stay on the bike.”