Bradley Smith expects a closer fight with new MotoGP teammate Pol Espargaro will help lift his game in 2014.
Smith spent his rookie season in the premier class alongside Cal Crutchlow, who already had two seasons of experience with Tech 3 to draw upon and therefore comfortably outpaced his younger teammate. That dynamic will change in 2014, however, with Crutchlow departing to the works Ducati squad and Smith being partnered with Espargaro, graduating to the premier class after winning the Moto2 title last year.
Smith says his anticipated fight with Espargaro, coupled with the fact he will be the team’s senior rider, will be a boost next year.
“In your second year you have to step up to the plate ” I’ve been well aware of that for a long time,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have Pol inside the garage; it’s extra focus ready for 2014 and having someone as fast as him helps an awful lot. I think we can push each other really well. It’s good; it squeezes out a final few tenths.”
Asked whether partnering Crutchlow helped during his rookie season, Smith said: “In terms of performance I wouldn’t say too much [but] in terms of pressure it was huge.
“The way he is inside the garage and the way he is with the team creates such a positive atmosphere ” he really took away all the limelight and put it on himself, with all of the podiums and the good results. From that respect, it didn’t matter what I did, which really allowed me to concentrate on myself without any added distractions.
“I’m not sure you can ever shut up all of the critics, but I like to think I changed a few people’s points of view [in 2013].”
Smith added that he was not hoping to emulate Crutchlow’s return of four podiums next year, but was focused instead on beating his satellite rivals. Asked about his 2014 targets, Smith said: “It’s not what Cal did, as he obviously finished on the podium and did a lot of great things this year. It’s probably a step back from that: to battle with [Honda satellite riders Alvaro] Bautista and [Stefan] Bradl.
“In some races I plan to get the better of them, which they will also do with me at times.”