Bradley Smith admits there is a lot of pressure and expectation ahead of this weekend's debut in the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race.
Smith and Tech 3 MotoGP team-mate Pol Espargaro have been called up by Yamaha to star in its factory return at the prestigious Japanese event. The pair will ride alongside national champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga, most familiar to European fans for his podium at the 2012 Valencia MotoGP.
“Yes there is a lot of expectation, but we know the job we need to do and Yamaha have given me Pol and Nakasuga a fantastic package,” Smith said. “Nakasuga-san has taught us a lot as he helped to develop the bike and has the most experience at Suzuka so yes, we expect the pressure but all of us want to win and bring the trophy back to Yamaha Motor Corporation.”
Having reached MotoGP via the familiar CEV-125cc-Moto2 ladder, Superbike - let alone endurance racing - is something of an alien environment for the Englishman. Yet his machinery already feels familiar.
“The good thing is that the R1 I'm using at Suzuka already feels like my M1 I use in MotoGP and the fact that we use Bridgestone tyres in MotoGP means I am used to the feedback I get from the tyres,” Smith explained.
“Of course they are a little bit different to our MotoGP tyres, but the DNA of the Bridgestone MotoGP tyre is still there and they worked well in testing.”
Smith, joint fifth and the leading satellite rider in this year's MotoGP standings, made his grand prix debut in 2006 - three years after the legendary Suzuka circuit was removed from the calendar.
“I really love riding at Suzuka, it was better than I expected,” he said. “Everyone I talked to said how much fun it is to ride, but it really is great and I love the undulations and blind corners.
“I would say my favourite part is the 'S' Curves as I really enjoyed riding through that part, but also 130R at the end of the back straight.”
Yamaha is seeking its first Suzuka 8 Hours victory since Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga in 1996. Honda, winner of the last five events in a row, has signed former MotoGP champion Casey Stoner for this year's line-up.
The full interview with Bradley Smith can be viewed on the Bridgestone Motorsport website.