My life and the life of my family and friends is about to change.

The start of the new season is just two weeks away and this 18-year-old will change from being a normal teenager into somebody who is totally obsessed and focused for the next seven and a half months.

At the circuit I will be on that competitive edge the whole time and away from the race track I will be thinking about the grand prix that has just finished and the grand prix that lies ahead 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It's a big switch of emotions for me and everybody around me. That's why it's so important to spend time with the family during the close season because once the racing starts I can be just a little difficult and distant because I'm only thinking of one thing - trying to win grand prix races!

I've still got around 350 laps of practice to get prepared for the first grand prix in Qatar in just over a couple of weeks time. We start this week with the official three day test at Jerez in Spain where you really find out who is going to be the on the pace in those early races. Not that I need any clues because I know who is fast - he's my own team-mate.

Julian Simon has come back to join me in the Bancaja Aspar Aprilia team from the 250cc class and it's like he's never been away. He's right out on his own at the moment and he's the man to chase. I honestly don't think there has been anything wrong with my pace at our recent tests in Jerez and Estoril in Portugal but he's out there at the front on his own. Julian has set the standards and it's up to me and some of the others to match him, starting this week in Jerez.

It's a vital test around the track that hosts the Spanish Grand Prix. It gives you a chance to gauge what progress your rivals have made and also gives you the chance to stamp your authority right from the start. It's then home for the last weekend with the family before the madness starts.

Sixteen grands prix in seven and a half months starting under the floodlights in Qatar in a couple of weeks, closely followed by the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi before we return for the European season. We also have a two day test in Qatar before the grand prix to give us the opportunity to adjust to the floodlights. Last year it was the first ever grand prix on two or four wheels to be staged under floodlights and it was brilliant. So sharp and so clear... and I took pole position, but had problems in the race. Sounds like the story of my season last year, but that's all behind me.

I've had a fantastic pre-season and I'm fitter and more determined than I've ever been in my life. I got away from the snow and cold at home and spent six weeks in Spain doing what I like best; Motocrossing and training. My career started in Motocross and it was great to be back on the bike. In the past I've always been a little wary about too much training on a Motocross bike with the fear of getting injured. This time I went for it, big triple jumps and all. A couple of minor falls caused my body no problem at all. I did a lot of the training with former grand prix star Randy Mamola and his son Dakota who took his first ever podium finish in the 125cc race in Barcelona on Sunday. Looks like another Mamola is on the way...

What was so good was my Dad, who is still quick on a Motocross bike (but don't tell him I said so!), and my younger brother also came out to ride, which made it a brilliant family outing. We had to come home for four days in the middle to celebrate my Mum's birthday. I'm surprised she let us go back!

While in Spain I went to the Formula One test in Barcelona to see Mark Webber, who had been to Misano to watch me race last year. I also met up with World Champion Lewis Hamilton who told me he'd love to come Motocrossing with me - although his McLaren team may not be quite so keen!

I'll be watching the first Formula One grand prix in Melbourne this weekend with great interest after watching them test After that my race head will be firmly fixed for the next seven and a half months.

Grumpy? Never.

Bradley Smith



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