2015 was certainly a season to remember for Bradley Smith. The sixth best MotoGP rider of the year and scorer of points in every race, along with a win in the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour event, were all reasons to suggest this was his finest season to date.

They were results that didn't come without sacrifice. At the close of 2014, his second year in the series, Smith knew a change in approach was necessary to ensure the disaster of Sachsenring, when he was achieving very little while "riding angry", didn't reoccur.

Using the momentum gained from his first MotoGP podium in Australia, over the offseason Smith decided on adopting a different demeanour at the track. Holding back on the shouting in the garage, restructuring how he gave feedback and an added self-belief all contributed to a consistency that allowed him to finish the year 67 points ahead of more-fancied team-mate Pol Espargaro.

Crash.net had the chance to speak to Bradley after the climax of the season to hear how he built himself up from a career low point in 2014, his new approach and areas he is seeking to improve ahead of the new year.

Crash.net:
If I had told you at beginning of 2015 that you'd finish sixth in the world championship and score points in every race, would you have believed me?

Bradley Smith:
I would have thought that you had way more belief in me than most. I mean even me, because obviously we sit down and it's always good to make some pre-season goals, I had allowed for one DNF and about 165 points. I surpassed that by 16, which is really two races worth if we take that into account and I didn't DNF. It's been an amazing season. My target was always to be top Satellite. I thought I was stretching it but that was always my target. I didn't expect to be in front of a Factory bike. I expected to be in front of the Suzukis but never in front of Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso], especially after his first three races. Finally I was only seven points behind Iannone as well so it was an amazing season. I didn't put a foot wrong but the team didn't either so it was a great job.

Crash.net:
At the start of this year you spoke of how you were approaching weekends in a calmer manner than before. What caused you to make this change?

Bradley Smith:
I think a deep look into myself and also how I was going to get my performance better. It was all something that was on the agenda. Not only by looking at it myself but also with Randy Mamola. He was adamant that I needed to do it. He explained how it was from the outside, looking in. Also, from reading a few psychology books helped me understand how to get more from the people around me and how to extract more from those people as well. Not only from myself but also from them.

We're all in a very narrow percentage of lap time, especially the satellite riders. I have been given the exactly same product as Pol [Espargaro]. That means that I need to find a way to be in front of him. Whether that's on talent or raw speed. I'd say, from a raw speed point of view, he's probably better. But from a talent point of view we're on a similar level. So he's already ahead on the speed. So that led me to think, 'What do I have to do? I'm going to have to get everyone on my side and get everybody extracting one hundred percent from themselves.' Like your electronics guy, your crew chief, your engineer, your tyre guy. To get as much from them as you possibly can and pick their brains to then get the maximum exposure out on track. A number of things contributed to it.

Also being injured going into the winter test, although it wasn't fun in Sepang to be riding with the injury, it actually showed that a very calm, no pressure atmosphere got results. I always thought it had to be high tension to get the maximum from myself - not necessarily the maximum from the team but certainly from myself. I needed to be under pressure. I needed my back against the wall. I needed to be angry. But these were all things that weren't working with the Yamaha. That really opened my eyes. In those three days I saw that I was working. I thought, 'We need to keep this for the remainder of the season' and it was something that I was able to maintain, which was good.

Crash.net:
Jorge Lorenzo used to practice forms of meditation in order to curb some of his hot-headed tendencies. Did you look toward him as inspiration for this?

Bradley Smith:
I think everyone was looking at Jorge in terms of the Yamaha leader. In terms of his riding style and the way he goes about racing, is one, at a very high level. The way he does his practice sessions. Before, when he used to bang out ten or fifteen laps consecutively in free practice. I thought that was the direction that I needed to go in. It's obviously something we need to do with the Yamaha. I suppose from a riding style point of view it's something that you needed to take profit from. You know, how to do that let's say.

Although meditation isn't a route that I've gone down it's all about that being calm. Having that inner belief and security to be calm and then to go about your work in the right way. I was able to do that with certain things. With motocross I was practicing away from the track, because you don't get to test here. Doing certain things under pressure and just managing to remain calm and see the bigger picture as well. Also, I think it's just getting older. The more you go through this the more you start to get a little more placid and understand that there is more to life than just motorbikes. It needs to be super-important but you need to have a bigger picture than just that.

Crash.net:
Can you explain how you are calmer through a race weekend?

Bradley Smith:
Obviously words and how you structure your sentences is really important. [When talking] you talk about positives and negatives. We're all humans at the end of the day and if all they [his crew] hear are the things that they are doing bad that's not going to allow them to get the maximum from themselves or it's going to make them uptight. The way that you speak, how you structure what you're going to say. Suggesting rather than telling. Also the tone of voice is a key one. If you start yelling at people while looking directly at them in their face they don't accept that information. If everyone is calm and listening then no one feels at threat. That's another thing. If you're pointing the finger at someone then they feel at threat so they almost close down as well. That's one of those things.

Then you need that self-belief that everything will turn out alright. Given everything, if we line everything up, make the bike and electronics good so they're working, finally at some point in the weekend I will be fast. We just need to make the right steps to get there. Sometimes those steps take longer, other times they don't take as long. If you jump some steps or get angry and start going off the path then you get lost. It's basically being leader. Although I'm a rider and I have all these other guys, I have a boss, and I have huge respect for all the guys inside my team, I have to lead those types of people to get the maximum from myself on the bike. I'm the only person that can make the bike go fast and they have to work out a way to do that. I need to be able to work out a way of getting them to give me the things that I need to do.

Crash.net:
Do you remember a specific moment this year when you had to check yourself, when you were perhaps reverting to or about to revert to your old ways?

Bradley Smith:
I've been quite lucky. I've never been one to throw things around. Obviously I've been one to shout and be angry. I've been one to just walk through the garage and walk out the back. One thing is clear. If that's your normal behaviour then people no longer respond to anything else. If you do make a fuss then it's like, 'We're serious now. We need to be on our toes. We need to find a solution because this [situation] is different to normal. This isn't just a small problem. This is a big issue. We need to focus and knuckle down.'

That's when you can extract that final one percent from everybody and actually realise that it's fine. There have been a few times that I've had to bite my tongue of course. But it's for the benefit of not just myself, but the team environment as well. Like I said, things don't turn out as bad as it seems at that moment. That's one thing Randy Mamola has helped a lot with. Just taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. That's one thing he tried to do as much as possible, to try and guide me as well as the team. When I am struggling, go down to Yamaha and listen in on what's being said. I'm not the only person in this struggle. He's out on track. He's watching four Yamaha riders. He's watching the Honda and Ducati riders as well. He's watching four Yamaha riders doing exactly the same as what I'm doing. [Sometimes he says,] 'It might be a bit better for them but I promise you that everyone is doing the same wobble and the same slide and everyone is struggling with the same thing. It's just down to how you manage it or how you manage your tools to manage it. It's been an effort from everyone as well.

Crash.net:
You achieved some fantastic results this year. The fifth in Mugello from eleventh on the grid and the fourth in Sepang both stand out. But the ride in Misano was something special. Would that rank as your favourite memory from the year?

Bradley Smith:
I would say Misano is the main one. It was a massive gamble and there were so many emotions inside my head. Wondering whether it was going to pay off, then it did pay off. I suppose being able to soak in the podium as well. Actually knowing that you're going to finish on the podium, to know that it's coming. Then being able to celebrate with the team. Them going through all those emotions because obviously they didn't know what I was thinking. It's not something that you talk through. You never say, 'Listen boys, it's raining out there so I'm going to stay out there on slicks.' It's totally my choice. There's no radio, going back and forth so seeing everybody's faces back in parc ferm? was good. I would still say from that point of view it is the stand out race.

Crash.net:
Through the year I've heard you say that you had taken your 2015 package to its limits and felt you could do no more in terms of extracting extra tenths from set-up. Was there ever a time when that affected your motivation, knowing you couldn't get any more from the bike?

Bradley Smith:
It depends how you look at it. This is another thing by growing up a little bit more you're able to deal with that situation. You can't let it affect you. If it does affect you then it's only going to do so negatively. If you get angry and downhearted then it'll affect your results and if that happens it will affect your career. You need to continue working on those realistic goals and extracting the most that you can from it.

Now, if I got to the end of the race and the thing that held me back was the bike because of the things we could have changed I did my job. It is frustrating but I did my job. Let's say 75 percent of the time I was top satellite rider I did my job more than the other guys that were around me. I can just shrug it off. I accepted that this was the situation I was in. The fact that Yamaha themselves were in an important part of the year, where it looked like they were going to have two riders that were fighting for the championship, they were going into this season putting a lot of effort in with it being their 60th year anniversary. They hadn't won the title for a long time so it was an important one.

I suppose going into the season we were first of all going to get a very competitive bike to start the year but there was going to be nothing else. Once you no longer want for something more than you can have and you're just happy with what you're given then your mind will be at peace with that. Although I'm a competitive person I knew that my bike could be better than the other guys around me - Pol and Cal for example - I still had enough to do that job. I had to extend myself but I still had enough to get that job done.

Crash.net:
We've heard you mention how the German Grand Prix in 2014, where you crashed five times in three days, was a low point in your career. As your results have been mainly positive since then, how did you build yourself back up from that?

Bradley Smith:
I had to understand why. Why did Sachsenring happen? This was more of an indication that I needed to change. There were a few things that we could have done with the bike but it was me. I was the one riding the bike. Although we could have done more with the traction control, which we did straight away at Indianapolis, the next time I rode the bike, and the problems started to disappear. Mentally it was me being so angry and determined to do a good job that I wasn't looking at the bigger picture. I wasn't giving my technicians the information they needed. I need to be the guide. When you actually consider that you're potentially out of a job, your career's gone and your dream is coming to an end you can either let it get you down or give you the inspiration to build you up. I would have to say a lot of it I managed to deal with myself. A couple of times I went to bend the ear of a few friends, to do a brainstorming session. To chuck stuff at the wall [and say], 'What do you think about that? And that?' Basically the common denominator was myself. I then worked on all the stuff people had been telling me. I took a step back and allowed that information to be absorbed. I made a note in my own head of how I needed to go about it because I wasn't going to make the change overnight. I thought how I would make those steps. It was a big plan on four sheets of A4 paper that I drew up myself. It was my own project to do what I needed to do. I suppose that's what made Phillip Island so special as well. I had turned myself around and I was rewarded. That then made turning myself around going into the winter even easier.

Crash.net:
You are now 25-years old. A rider in his mid-twenties is always evolving. Which area of your riding have you earmarked for improvement over the winter?

Bradley Smith:
Obviously I still believe that we need to improve the opening five laps. I've lost out in races this season, and maybe that's just one or two points, but I've lost out because I haven't had the speed in the opening five laps. This is something I have to continue working on. I believe I can do it. I just need to work on my riding setting that allows a riding style, let's say, to do that type of thing. We'll see what the Michelins will require and we'll see what the new electronics will require. They're going to be my main focus over the offseason and I'd like to think that my understanding of the motorcycle, and my confidence level, being able to work closely with the team and gain all the information that we did over the course of the season, will actually put us a couple of steps ahead when everything changes. We know these electronics are going to be more basic but I believe that I know what I need for it to work. I can translate that across so I don't need the data guy to learn that from watching ten races of me going round a race track. I can dictate that from day one, or at least day two, so I'm quite confident from that point of view.

Crash.net:
When you entered GPs in 2006, James Ellison and Chaz Davies were the only other British men in the paddock. This year, three Brits stood on the MotoGP podium, Sam Lowes won a race in Moto2 and Danny Kent claimed the Moto3 world title. What do you put this recent upsurge down to?

Bradley Smith:
I think first and foremost the main reason behind this is Dorna. What they set up with the MotoGP academy, which then turned into the Red Bull academy. That was a huge thing in terms or trying to find English talent. That opened the eyes of Stuart Higgs and those in BSB that young talent was actually important. So then 125s and the Moto3 has more of a bigger window. Also, I think the fact that 250s went to Moto2 so the class could take in 600 riders. Riders from the British championships could then be taken more seriously and if they move to world championships or World Supersport. Bringing Kenan Sofuoglu across and him being successful on a Moto2 bike opened the door for Sam [Lowes] coming across. [Ben] Spies coming from World Superbike then opened the door for Cal [Crutchlow].

I think we were lucky to be in certain situations. In the past we had a lot of high-level guys in a lot of places but the path wasn't there to jump across. It took a few political moves to almost clear the path, which the English riders then followed. Obviously it was for a market as well, to get British riders in here and being successful. The fact the BBC was inside the paddock and getting bigger and more British journalists there was more interest in the sport. BT are now in there as well as a money backer, it was all part of a big plan, that for me started back in 2005.

Now we're taken seriously again because there was a massive low. This paddock won't study the British championship and work out the level. They'll follow riders that have been in here, and if you haven't been successful you'll get written off. It's just the way this paddock works unfortunately. They write off the people and countries based on [thinking] there's no success coming from there. There is actually a lot of talent there and it's good to see.

 

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