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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 March 2006, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Teenager Smith hits the big time
by Julian Shea

Bradley Smith
Smith has made a swift journey to the big time in bike racing
Bradley Smith enjoyed an encouraging debut when he finished Sunday's first round of the world 125cc motorbike championship in Spain in 17th place.

In just two years, the 15-year-old from Oxfordshire has risen through the ranks of junior biking to be handed a chance in the big time with Repsol Honda.

"I always thought I could get into a world championship in motocross, which is where I started," he told BBC Sport.

"But never did I think I'd get here in two years."

Way before Bradley learnt how to ride one, motorbikes already had a significant role in Smith family life.

"My father raced in motocross and we owned our own practice track which held public races," he said.

"I was always around the bikes, but I never showed any interest until I was six, when all of a sudden I decided I'd like to ride.

"My parents weren't 100% sure so my Dad said when I got below a certain lap time, he would buy me a 60cc bike.

"After trying and trying, one day I did and he got me the bike, and that's how it all started."

If I don't work hard at school, I don't get to go where I want to go - racing has helped me focus more

This season Bradley will be racing in 14 countries in four different continents, but travelling the world to race bikes is something he is already used to, having already competed in Spain for a year.

"In England, there's a thing called the Auto Cycle Union academy for young racers, but I was never chosen for it," he said.

"I spent a year competing in the Aprilia Superteams competition and finished fourth behind three Academy riders, and then in January 2005, out of the blue, I got a call asking me to go to the Spanish Academy."

Bradley spent last year flying back and forth to Spain for races - with the full support of his school, Wheatley Park.

"School would give me the work to do, and off I went. As long as I keep up with my work, there's no problem," he said.

"If I don't work hard at school, I don't get to go where I want to go - racing has helped me focus more, and in fact my grades have improved."

Bradley won the last three rounds of the Spanish 125cc championship, and that was enough to earn him a chance in the world championship.

But despite his swift rise to the top, Bradley refuses to get carried away by his success.

"I don't have any long-term goals, I just set small targets which aren't a million miles away," he says.

Many youngsters who might like to follow in Bradley's footsteps could be put off by the potential danger and expense.

But he says as long as you use common sense, there is nothing to fear.

"You've got to have respect for the track, but if you worry about crashing you're not going to go very fast," he said.

"Sometimes you have big crashes and walk away, and it's usually the most minor things that really injure you.

"But at every level of racing, you've got medical staff who are there to take care of you."

And while not everyone is born with a bike track in their back garden, there are plenty of cheap ways to get involved.

"Metrokits are 80cc road racing bikes, and there are also minimotos, which are cheap," he said.

"They aren't unbelievably fast and they're pretty safe. There's lots of seven and eight-year-olds competing, and it's a way of progressing towards 125cc. If you want to get into racing, there are always events going on."


SEE ALSO
Roberts has Rossi in his sights
22 Mar 06 |  Motorbikes
Ellison geared up to start
20 Mar 06 |  Motorbikes
Schoolboy earns 125cc opportunity
27 Jan 06 |  Motorbikes


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