BBC BLOGS - Matt Roberts
« Previous | Main | Next »

Smith destined for big things

Post categories:

Matt Roberts | 06:22 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

"If you want to win it all... make no mistake: you have to risk it all."

Bradley Smith sat edgily in his seat as the haunting voice of Ewan McGregor echoed around the famous walls of the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square on Tuesday night.

The 20-year-old had walked the red carpet into the premiere of the MotoGP movie Fastest in the knowledge that he himself will be joining motorcycle racing's A-list in just over a year's time - and he admitted after watching Mark Neale's brilliant new production that he felt more than a little nervous about the prospect.

The announcement last Sunday night that Smith had penned a rare three-year deal with his current Tech3 team, which will see him compete for one more season in Moto2 before taking the step up to MotoGP, is great news for British fans who are guaranteed at least one home-grown rider in the premier class for the next three seasons.

It is also great news for us at the BBC because while the spectacle of the world's best riders pushing the limits at 200mph on two wheels regularly gets the adrenaline of our hardcore audience of just over one million viewers pumping, there is nothing like a home hero to get the entire nation on the edge of their sofas.


British rider Bradley Smith will compete in the MotoGP World Championships in 2013 and 2014 after penning a three-year deal with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP Team. PHOTO: GETTY

Of course, to convert those hundreds of thousands of 'floating' viewers into die-hards requires not only having a British competitor for them to get behind but a British winner to celebrate and Bradley certainly has the potential to eventually carry that mantle.

So does Cal Crutchlow, of course, but the challenge for Cal is so much greater because he did not come through the Grand Prix ranks.

Switching from Superbikes to MotoGP requires a complete overhaul of riding style and approach and when so much of what these guys do is based on pure instinct this process is easier said than done - especially when the majority of circuits are completely new. It also requires that preciously scarce resource: time.

Bradley, on the other hand, has been racing prototype Grand Prix motorcycles on Grand Prix circuits since the age of 15 and after taking 20 podiums - including three wins - in the 125cc class, finishing runner-up in 2009 and fourth in 2010, he already has three podiums in his first season of the ultra-competitive Moto2 class.

Staying for one more season with the goal of challenging for wins whilst also preparing himself for the physical challenge of MotoGP is a wise move that highlights his mature and measured approach to racing in general.

With Scott Redding also progressing successfully through the Moto2 class and Danny Kent beginning to challenge consistently at the front of the 125s, we could easily be looking at having three or four highly competitive Brits in MotoGP in the not-too-distant future.

Also knocking on the MotoGP door is Ireland's Eugene Laverty, who has followed in Crutchlow's footsteps by having success in the World Supersport series before stepping up to World Superbikes and winning races in this his first season.

Speaking to us after the race at Aragon Tech3 Team Principal Hervé Poncharal suggested Laverty is in the frame for the seat due to be vacated byColin Edwards next year, although his personal preference and no doubt that of Yamaha is to bring in an experienced replacement - and Poncharal confirmed that he was in talks with both Andrea Dovizioso and Álvaro Bautista.

However, with Italian Dovizioso keen to stay at Honda in some capacity and the Spaniard awaiting a decision on Suzuki's future plans, which should be announced at Motegi next week, a one-year deal for Laverty could suit both parties and open up an interesting battle between him and Crutchlow to be retained as Smith's team-mate in 2013.

It was an eventful weekend all round at Aragon, starting for us on Friday morning when our lovely production assistant Carol slipped in her bedroom and broke a rib!

The poor girl ended up in hospital for the remainder of the weekend with trapped air behind her ribcage and can't fly back home to Belfast until this coming Friday.

The role of PA is a vital one on any production but particularly on MotoGP because not only do they make all the logistical arrangements before we travel and when we're onsite, they are also the link between the OB (Outside Broadcast) unit and network controllers when we are live on air.

As a presenter they count you on and off air, as well as in and out of each piece of VT, so their voice becomes a vital part of your subconscious during a live broadcast.

With Carol stuck in a hospital bed and told she wouldn't be allowed to leave until at least Monday, producer Mike scrambled for his black book and began ringing around for a back-up that would be available to make the dash to a local airport.

A huge power cut at the track, which led to the cancellation of second free practice, added to some pretty chaotic scenes in and around our truck on Friday afternoon.

Mike managed to get a new production assistant booked but when she then missed her flight in the rush on Friday evening we were left to fend for ourselves during Saturday's qualifying programme on the Red Button. Thankfully, via plane to Barcelona, train to Zaragoza and automobile to Aragon, she made it to the circuit in time for race day and ensured that our show ran smoothly.

So thank you Ali and get well soon Carol!

From a production point of view we had a lot of work to do at Aragon, not just for Sunday's show but also trying to build up some extra material for the 'flyaway' races that are coming up in Japan, Australia and Malaysia. For obvious budgetary reasons we only take a skeleton crew to these races and as such over the past years we have only had a 10-minute build-up to the race.

However, this year we have been given our regular half-hour slot, which is great news but also a bit of a logistical headache.

With just one camera and no editing facilities onsite we are limited with how much we can film at the track and all our footage has to be sent back to Belfast via satellite to be cut by Saturday evening at the latest.

So it helps to plan ahead and get a couple of pieces 'in the can', such as an interview with Bautista that we will run in Japan as well as some nice generic features, like one that we are cutting on riders' pre-race rituals.

We have also been gathering material all year for a piece we plan to run in either Malaysia or Australia: we've asked each of the 17 current riders to choose their favourite corner in the world and plan to bolt them all together to make the ideal MotoGP circuit according to the class of 2011.

It's something we've never done before and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Of course it is important for us to find a balance between dateless pieces and breaking news - things relevant to the race build-up - especially at this stage of the season when titles are being won and lost and contracts decided for next year.

The season finale represents a gruelling schedule for everybody in the paddock but especially for the riders as they risk it all in extreme circumstances, with four races across three continents in just six weeks.

If you want to get a feel for just how tough that is, and to get a taste of what Bradley, Cal and the rest are up against, get yourself to a cinema on Monday or Tuesday of next week - the only two dates that Fastest will be available on the big screen.

And take a friend with you!


  • Comment number 1.

    Matt, Laverty didn't win the World Supersport title, in his two complete seasons he was runner up twice (with plenty of race wins mind you). As mush as Laverty is a good rider I think Chaz Davies should take the leap to Moto GP over Eugene, he is a really experienced 125/250 gp rider who had some good results on what were pretty poor bikes, most notably a 5th in the 250 race at PI a few years back. What he did on the Triumph last season plus his exploits this year I think he is more deserving, and he has a super smooth riding style.... plus he's a felloiw taff like me :)

  • Comment number 2.

    Matt. Great show last week. I loved the Loenzo interview because it seemed more genuine than usual - i'm looking forward to the Bautista piece too.

    More Brits coming through coming through can only be a good thing and I agree that they'll certainly boost your viewing figures initially (and if they are successful) but who wants to see an also-ran?

    Brad is definately doing the smart thing and waiting before moving up to MotoGP. I'd be alittle concerned about Eugene taking the Tech3 seat but who knows if it'll definately happen, it seems like everything is on pause until Dovi signs somewhere.

    Keep up the good work and the quiff (mousse and brylcreem?). You're the only think keeping my household from defecting to Eurosport.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great news Matt regarding more coverage for the flyaways! Its a good sign the BBC starting to take the sport seriously, I always have thought they have had as such this gem on their hands but never flaunted it, and with Brad in 2013, maybe we can have even more MotoGP on the BBC!

    As good as Brad has been this season in Moto2, and whilst I think when he moves up that he’ll get solid top 10 results in the Premier class, its my gut instinct that Scott Redding is the quicker rider and Danny Kent seems to be starting to make real progress in the 125’s, those two should both hopefully achieve great things at the top level, and of course all three riders mentioned would have been schooled all the way from the 125’s through the categories rather than coming straight in at the top from Superbikes so this means they know the paddock, tracks etc…

    One little criticism if I may… Of course unfortunately Vale hasn’t been fighting at the front and its fair to focus on the battle for the title (although there is rumour that he’s testing a full aluminium chassis at Jerez this week on the GP12), but could we maybe have some more interviews with the GOAT please?!?! I don’t know if he is like that with all the media etc but we haven’t heard much from him on the BBC and it would be great to hear more from the #46!!! Otherwise keep up the good work thanks!

  • Comment number 4.

    Pity the BBC dont show MotoGP on mainstream TV as they still like to think of darts and snooker as a more interesting sport, funny on Saturday I saw all the journalists running around the track at Aragon to get as much info as possible for their audiences while the BBC crew were all heading home at 5. 30 pm ish as I still feel you guys pay lip service to Moto GP coverage compared any other European channels.

  • Comment number 5.

    well done bradley .. bradley is such a great rider .. even in 2006 on that honda his race pace always showed how good he was .. with a great manager behind him you really can see bradlay has come on .. i wish him all the best it a shame the bcc dont follow moto two like eursport as the red button is no guarantee unless freesat not freewiew .. now they dont have formula one perhaps they will put some more air time into the best sport on telly ..motorbikes

  • Comment number 6.

    @lee: I very much agree about Chaz although it is unlikely MotoGP will pick from WSS at the moment. Hopefully he can wrap up the title and take that race winning mentality into WSBK next year and beyond. p.s. Eugene also has 250GP experience

    @malcolm46: You may well be right that Scott is a more naturally gifted rider but what I would say is that Brad more than makes up for that with focus and drive. I think his approach will be suited to MotoGP because it is such a massive learning experience. As for VR, he only gives one 1-1 interview per season to each non-Italian broadcaster and we had ours at Silverstone. We will try and get some more snippets from him between now and the end of the season though! :-)

    @proliteboss Next time Brad gets you a paddock pass just let me know and I will be glad to show you around the TV compound so that you have an understanding of how it works. Any time that suits you, there are usually people working in our truck until 10pm - just as they were at Aragon on Saturday evening.

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply Matt, agree with what you say about Brad, he is a bit more older and therefore more mature than Scott, as Scott seems to just rock up and give it ‘full gas’ which I do love that attitude but as you say you do need to be extremely focused to ride a MotoGP bike.

    That’s what I thought Vale does, is a shame but I understand, we don’t even really hear from him speaking to Azi after quali or the race, but you always seem to get hold of Jeremy Burgess which is always interesting to hear what he has to say about the set up etc of the bike. The interview with the Doctor you did in Silverstone was so good. Vale is so entertaining to listen to and to hear about his enthusiasm for the British crowd and his amazement when people have tattoos or babies named after him, you’d have thought he would have got used to it after 9 world titles, but it was very humbling of him – absolute legend.

  • Comment number 8.

    'We have also been gathering material all year for a piece we plan to run in either Malaysia or Australia: we've asked each of the 17 current riders to choose their favourite corner in the world and plan to bolt them all together to make the ideal MotoGP circuit according to the class of 2011'

    I'm well up for that!! Great stuff.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.