Interview: Bradley Smith, Part 1 - On Bikes, Adapting Riding Styles, And Why MotoGP Aliens Don't Exist

Bradley Smith is perhaps the most eloquent explainer of racing a MotoGP bike in the Grand Prix paddock. The Red Bull KTM rider marries a keen intellect and deeply analytical approach to riding, to a willingness to speak at remarkable length about the nuts and bolts of racing. Those journalists who want to know the hows and the whys of motorcycle racing make a beeline for Smith if they need to understand what is going on out on track.

During his daily 5-minute media debriefs, there is not much time to dive into a subject too deeply. So when I got a chance to conduct a longer interview with Smith, I made the most of it. With the Englishman leaving the Red Bull KTM team at the end of the season, his time is a little less strictly controlled by KTM's PR machine. Which is how I ended up spending over half an hour talking to Smith about a whole range of subjects, and having time to go into them in great depth.

In part 1 of this interview, Smith looks back at his MotoGP career so far, and talks about how different bikes affected his ability to perform. He discusses just how much riders adapt their styles through the course of a weekend, and a race. Taking the example of Jorge Lorenzo's use of the back brake, he explains how he was forced to use the brake to help him get around the limits of MotoGP electronics. And Smith explains to me why he doesn't believe in the concept of MotoGP Aliens, and what Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez are doing which makes them different.

Q: What I want to talk about is basically the technical side of riding. Let's start with how has the sport changed since you've been in the class? You came in on a satellite Yamaha on Bridgestones, and then you switched to Michelins, and then you switched to a factory team on a brand new project. What have you had to learn along the way? How have you had to change your approach, style, everything?

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 84: Motorland Marc, Dynamic Ducatis, And Lamentable Yamaha

In the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, Neil Morrison and David Emmett discuss a tense and exciting MotoGP race at Aragon. It was action packed right from the start, with Jorge Lorenzo crashing in the first corner.

We start off talking about the race, and how Marc Marquez went about winning it. We then turn our attention to Ducati, how they have made the progress they have had, and what Andrea Dovizioso's strong result at a track which has historically been bad for them means for the future.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP: gentlemanly or full of vicious passions?

Jorge Lorenzo’s Turn One exit at Aragón ended his chances of another MotoGP victory. But who is to blame for this latest controversy?

I like to think that Jorge Lorenzo has heard of George Orwell, the author of 1984, Animal Farm and other important novels. One of the Briton’s best-read creations is Homage to Catalonia (Homenaje a Cataluña in its Spanish translation), which recounts his grisly experiences of fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Orwell joined a militia in Barcelona and fought on the Aragón front, close to where Lorenzo and Marc Márquez fought on Sunday. In May 1937 he was shot in the throat by a sniper and nearly died.

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CormacGP Shoots Aragon: The Race In Spain Was Mainly On The Plain


The second half of 2018 is turning into a repeat of 2017: Dovizioso vs Marquez


Pol Espargaro was back in fine style, until he fell and rebroke his collarbone


Dark days for Movistar Yamaha at the moment


Story of the race: Jorge Lorenzo went down at Turn 1, and blamed Marc Marquez for it. Race Direction disagreed

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2018 Aragon MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: First Corner Crashes, Learning From The Enemy, And The Ignominy Of Records

How do you win a MotoGP race? In the Michelin era, you need a strategy. With all six tires which the French manufacturer brings to each weekend capable of lasting the race, selecting the right tire for your bike, and your setup, is crucial. Once the race is under way, you have to manage your pace, know when you can push hard, and when you have to sit and wait. Watch for weakness by your rivals, try to match them when attack without wrecking your own chances. With spec electronics and a wide range of tire options, MotoGP is a more intellectual game.

But it has also become more of a gamble. To find the ideal setup, the best strategy is to focus on the race during free practice, rather than worry about qualifying. But that risks leaving a rider stuck in Q1, and having to juggle front tires for Q2. You get an extra rear tire if you go through from Q1 to Q2, but not an extra front.

Mystery surface

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2018 Aragon Moto3 Warm Up Result: Bezzecchi Leads But Gets Penalty

While Jorge Martin will still start from pole position, a significant number of grid penalties were announced during the Warm Up session due to infringements in qualifying, including a 12 place grid penalty for title rival Marco Bezzecchi. 

Results:

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2018 Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: MotoGP Emulating Moto3, Failed Mind Games, And Yamaha's Descent Continues

It is a common enough sight in Grand Prix racing: slower riders cruising around at the edge of the track, waiting for a faster rider to come by so they can get a tow. It is especially common at the Motorland Aragon circuit. With its massive back straight of nearly a kilometer in length, a decent slipstream can be worth an awful lot.

It is less common to see slower riders cruising for a tow in MotoGP. In Moto3, sure: with horsepower at a premium, cutting down on drag equates to free speed. In Moto2 as well, as the fact that the bikes all produce exactly the same horsepower means that riders have to find an advantage anywhere they can. But MotoGP? A lack of horsepower is not really a problem in the premier class. The bigger problem is usually transferring it to the tarmac to generate drive, and translate that power to speed.

But Aragon is different. Sure, tucking in behind another bike can give you extra speed using their draft, but above all, using another rider as a target makes you that little bit faster. "MotoGP is so close now that if you can follow someone, get a bit of a tow, that's obviously going to improve your time," Bradley Smith explained on Saturday afternoon. "We don't see it very often in MotoGP, to be honest, as much as it was today, but it shows how important it is here in Aragon."

Reference, not tow

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