MotoGP rookie Bradley Smith says he won't be “intimidated” by the level of opposition he faces in the elite world championship this year.
Smith has joined fellow Briton Cal Crutchlow in the Tech 3 Yamaha team after progressing through the ranks of the 125cc and Moto2 classes.
His rivals include nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi and current double MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, but Smith says he has mentally prepared himself for the challenge.
“These are the best riders in the world but I have a lot of belief in myself and the programme I have been given,” Smith told BBC Radio Oxford
“I'm not intimidated, but that doesn't take away any respect. These boys are amazing motorcycle riders and athletes,” added the 22-year-old.
“You have to have the mentality that these guys are just another bike or just another rider.
“I've always been able to distinguish between someone I have admired in the past and people I have to race against now.
“I have to work as hard as possible to get up to the level these guys are at.”
Smith's two-year contract to compete in MotoGP with Tech 3 Yamaha offers the Oxford rider a golden chance to make a name for himself at the pinnacle of the sport, but despite the future prospects of fame and substantial financial rewards, Smith has vowed to remain true to his roots.
“I am, and continue to be, the country boy from Oxford,” he said.
“I have a great family and group of people around me that keep me level-headed. They keep me on the straight and narrow.
“I still live in the same area, still train on the same roads and hang out with the same people.
“I may have a few celebrity contacts in my phone but it's not a lifestyle that has taken over.
“My life may get busier in MotoGP but I don't intend to change.”
Smith will be back in action on the M1 Yamaha during pre-season testing at Sepang in Malaysia on Tuesday.