By Neil Morrison
Motorcycle grand prix will have a strong British flavour in 2013, with eight full time riders, including three in the intermediate Moto2 category.
Amongst them is a name that may be unfamiliar to some in the UK: Kyle Smith. The 21-year-old Yorkshire rider will contest the Moto2 class this year alongside 2010 Champion Toni Elias in the Blusens Avintia team.
Smith's road to the world stage has been slightly unconventional for a lad from Yorkshire.
His ride came after a highly competitive spell in the Spanish CEV stock extreme championship through 2010 to '12, with some eye-catching displays. He was ranked second overall last season after finishing inside the top six in every race with two podiums, including a precocious race win at a damp Jerez.
So was the ride in the Moto 2 class a natural progression after the CEV route?
“For me last year went really well. I had a lot more experience with setting the bike up and I had the same sponsor through all the year. The people around me have always been the same; I have my manager Juan Borja and mechanic Alfredo Morant. From the good results the Blusens team was looking for a rider for Moto 2, a new up and coming rider for the class so they turned to me. To ride in the world championship is just a dream come true.”
Although his two-wheel career started while competing in schoolboy motocross in England, his family moved to Spain when he was seven years old. He has followed a route becoming all the more common to young British talent since then, initially racing supermotos and motocross before turning his hand to the highly competitive Spanish short circuit scene.
“I raced nationals in motocross, but I seemed to do nothing but crash. My size has always hindered me, as I've always been small for my age. 85s were always too big for me. I needed to move up to 250 four-strokes but I was crashing a lot because of my size and strength. We figured we'd give road racing a shot.”
The benefits of coming through the ranks in Spain are well known where the world championship teams closely monitor regional and national races. Smith's early performances on asphalt merited the attention of Jorge 'Martinez' Aspar, one of the paddock's most influential figures.
After competing in the regional Valencia cup in his second year he was selected for a trial with Aspar's squad in 2008; and after impressing he was given a full time ride with the team in the national CEV 125 championship.
As a 16 year old, suddenly finding himself in a World Championship team wasn't easy and the results weren't ultimately successful.