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Bradley Smith wants a racing chance with Aprilia for 2021 MotoGP season

Bradley Smith says he wants to prove himself on equal terms with Aleix Espargaro if he gets the nod for the 2021 MotoGP seat at Aprilia Racing

Bradley Smith - Aprilia Racing

Bradley Smith says he is eager to prove what he can do on level footing at Aprilia Racing next season as he awaits a decision from the team over whether he or Lorenzo Savadori will take up its vacant race seat for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship.

Aprilia’s second ride alongside Aleix Espargaro remains the only unfilled spot on the 2021 MotoGP grid following Andrea Iannone’s extended ban for a failed drugs test and contract rejections from Moto2 riders Marco Bezzecchi, Joe Roberts and Fabio Di Giannantonio.

As such, it has confirmed the seat will be assumed by either Smith - who competed for the majority of the 2020 MotoGP season in place of the suspended Iannone - and Savadori, who stepped in for the final three events.

2021 APRILIA RS 660 REVIEW

In a year that saw the latest generation Aprilia RS-GP fail to live up to expectations with a best finish of just eighth from Espargaro, though Smith struggled to match the Spaniard on paper, he is keen to point out he was largely focused on laborious development work rather than ultimately chasing results.

As a result, if he gets the nod to compete again in 2021, Smith wants to do it on equal terms with Espargaro to prove he can be more competitive than he looks.

“Looking back at the season I really feel I extracted the most I could, considering the package I was on and the circumstances I was in,” he told Bikesportnews. “Being a replacement rider was never going to be easy, even more so after a season away from MotoGP. 

“Development was still my main priority throughout 2020 and that showed most weekends with my results compared to Aleix.

“[Ideally I want] The full-time seat alongside Aleix, with a better balance between racing and testing. I want to show what Bradley Smith can still do and not have to just wait for it to rain for a few sessions a year.”

"There is so much to it than what you see from your sofa"

Finishing all but one of the 11 races he started in 2020, his only DNF came with a crash in rain at Le Mans while he ran inside the top ten. 

Elsewhere his best finish was a 12th in Andalucia, but Smith says the middling results bely the difficult and arduous development work he was doing while competing against the best riders in the world.

“There is so much more to racing than what you can see from the comfort of your own sofa or even trackside for that matter. 

“It’s hard to develop a motorcycle against guys that are racing their 100% maximum for a championship but I knew my job when I signed and as I said at the beginning, I am happy with the work and the job I did. 
Le Mans was one of the very few times that I didn’t have to develop, because of the rain, and the performance reflected that.”

"Seeing Zarco quit KTM hurt..."

Smith joined Aprilia Racing at the start of 2019 in a development role after being shunted out of his KTM ride in favour of Johann Zarco. When the French subsequently left mid-way through the first season of a two-year contract, Smith admits it affected it.

“2019 was a difficult season for me mentally, KTM decided to take Zarco which would have been fine if he actually showed anything like the performances that I had during the 2018 season. 

“Seeing him quit and throw in the towel hurt me even more, I couldn’t just shrug it off and that showed me I wasn’t ready to retire. 2021 would be my 16th season in GPs and I love racing motorcycles just as much as when it all began.”

Smith made his MotoGP debut in 2013, completing four seasons with the Tech 3 Yamaha team - finishing sixth overall in 2015 - before joining KTM for its first two seasons in the top flight.

The Briton’s hopes of landing the Aprilia ride are understood to be strengthened by Dorna’s desire to have at least one British rider on the grid.
 

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