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Boy racer Smith raises British hopes

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 23 (Reuters) Bradley Smith is undeniably a boy racer. One day he could also be Britain's answer to Valentino Rossi.

The 15-year-old Oxfordshire schoolboy, still too young to ride a scooter on public roads, makes his world championship debut at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in the ultra-competitive 125cc category.

A graduate from the MotoGP academy, and runner-up in last year's Spanish championship, the second youngest rider on the starting grid is not fazed by the prospect of jostling with the big boys at 220kph.

''I've just got to get my experience and take it a step at a time, always give 100 percent,'' the confident teenager told Reuters.

''Last year, 10,000 people was the maximum at the races. Now I'm going to arrive and find 140,000 at the first race.

''It's going to be a bit 'Oh my God' but once you are racing you are all focused, you don't worry about the people around you,'' he added.

''It's going to be difficult. But I'm pretty confident in my ability and fitness.'' Britain has had plenty of riders in recent years who have raised expectations but failed to deliver on the world stage because of a lack of financial backing or having an uncompetitive bike.

The late Barry Sheene was the last British champion, 29 years ago in the 500cc category, while it has been nearly five years since the last grand prix win with Jeremy McWilliams in the 250cc class.

TOP MACHINE However Smith has been put on the fast track by promoters Dorna, keen to boost British interest in the series, and the Repsol Honda team run by former Spanish racer Alberto Puig who has guided compatriot Dani Pedrosa to MotoGP.

That gives the teenager a top machine but he knows it will take time to make his mark in what is effectively only his third year of road racing.

''I used to do motocross from the age of six and then I stopped that in 2004 due to too many injuries,'' he said.

''I broke my leg and my arm, just silly things...I switched to road racing after I broke my leg.'' Smith will lead a dual life, travelling the world with races in China, Australia and the Middle East and then going back to the classroom and his school mates in between. He said he looked forward to it.

''It's quite nice to go back to school from racing, see your friends and do normal things,'' he said. ''It's actually quite nice just to go back to normality.

''School is very important because you never know when the sport and the racing's going to end. Hopefully it won't, but you never know. Things can happen.'' REUTERS PDS PM1930

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