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BRADLEY SMITH THE FUTURE’S BRIGHT

It wasn’t the most predictable move, but Britain’s Bradley Smith is already confident his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing MotoGP signing is the opportunity he’s been gagging for.

If we’re talking about proper factory signed British Grand Prix racers, and not those who’ve deputised for teams along the way, the last time we had such a Brit flying the flag in the premier racing class was Niall Mackenzie on the Lucky Strike Suzuki RGV500, way back in 1990. Okay, unless you count the Jeremy McWilliams’ Aprilia Cube efforts or KTM’s exploits with Señor Shakey Byrne. But neither of the latter rides seemed to pack the credentials of what’s now being offered to Oxfordshire’s most established GP rider.

Having rocked the world on his Tech 3 Yamaha in 2015, finishing the highest Brit and sixth overall in the MotoGP standings, it’s fair to say 2016 was a forgettable season for Bradley Smith. Well, unless you factor in his unprecedented signing for the KTM Factory Racing team. In a move that saw him depart from the satellite team which had been his host for six years – in both Moto2 and MotoGP – it begs to question, what prompted the 26-year-old’s decision? And what is he hoping to achieve behind the bars of arguably the most exciting, and different, Grand Prix motorcycle to be lining up on 2017’s pleasantly full grid? Time for a chat…

How did the KTM gig come about?

It all kicked off with a phone call. I was in Thailand at the end of 2015 and missed a call from a country code I didn’t recognise. I checked it and it turned out to be an Austrian number, which immediately got my brain ticking. I figured I only knew a few people from Austria, so I rang it back and sure enough it was Mike Lietner (KTM Race Boss). He was like, ‘Hey Bradley, any chance you can come for a meeting at KTM?’

Well, actually, the first question was whether I might be interested in a switch to KTM, and then came the invite to go and meet the guys. Obviously, both of those answers were yes. I got Christmas out the way and headed to meet Mike and Pit Beirer as soon as I could. It was on just five minutes into the meeting; I was definitely more than 50% sure we’d be striking a deal. I already knew quite a bit about the RC project. I’d been keeping an eye on its development, and I knew a few people from the factory who were feeding me bits about the bike. I guess the real hook was to be a part of something being built from scratch, and getting hands on with its development.

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