Motorcycling: Racing with Rossi no problem for the 145mph schoolboy

The Oxfordshire schoolboy Bradley Smith claimed yesterday that he would not be fazed when he races on the same track as the seven times world motorcycle champion, Valentino Rossi, in 10 days' time.

Smith, 15, will make his debut in the 125cc class on a factory Repsol Honda at the opening round of the MotoGP Championship in Jerez, Spain.

Rossi will set about winning his eighth world title on his Camel Yamaha in the big race for 990cc, 215mph bikes. But Smith would be happy with a single point for 15th place when he rides his 145mph machine. "It's going to be great to race in the same series as Rossi in front of 125,000 people,'' he said at the British launch of the MotoGP championship in London.

"But I'm there to do my job. Obviously I will hear the noise of the fans through my helmet when we line up on the grid, but once the race starts I'll get tunnel vision and I'll only be aware of the rider in front.''

Smith was selected to handle the Honda from hundreds of rivals by the Spanish motorcycle legend Alberto Puig.

Bradley's father, Alan, a courier company manager, said Puig had selected his son because he had not yet developed bad riding habits. "Puig says that Bradley is like clay and not a vase,'' Alan Smith said. "There's plenty of time to mould him into a better rider.''

Smith has surprisingly mature ambitions. "Everyone in racing says he wants to be world champion,'' he said. "But if you set a big target for yourself and you don't get there, you fall flat on your face.

"So I'm not predicting where I will finish in the championship points table. I just want to set my bike up properly for the Jerez race, improve my lap times and see what I can do.''

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