Smith sets up in Spanish Superbikes as he awaits Aprilia MotoGP decision| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
MotoGP will finally fire into action at the opening shakedown test of 2021 at the start of March but with less than three weeks to go, the last remaining place on the premier class grid remains unclaimed.
Aprilia are still in negotiations over whether to install Lorenzo Savadori or Bradley Smith in each of their development and race seats, with the Oxfordshire rider adamant he has the goods should the decision fall in his favour.
“Talks continue to be ongoing. Aprilia need to decide what is best for their project in the short term and the long term and I need to decide what is best for myself and my own career. I’ve made it very clear I am a racer and I want the official seat, I’m not ready for a retirement life of testing yet,” Smith told bikesportnews.com.
“In an ideal world, I need to be cloned, because if I was race rider and test rider that would be the best case scenario for Aprilia but as we know, that’s not possible. So for Aprilia, it seems better if I develop the bike and do wildcards because we can progress the project, where as if Savadori was the test rider we would go nowhere - hence [Massimo] Rivola’s comments about the decision for the second seat ‘not being solely about laptime’ because they know I am the faster rider.”
With manager Bob Moore on the case as far as the negotiations are concerned, Smith is busying himself with other plans, having initially hinted at a new venture via an instagram post titled “Project 109 is complete” featuring a Yamaha R3, with Claudio Corti and YART tagged in the image. The 30-year-old explained:
“We are currently looking into how to set up a team in ESBK 300 in Spain. Hopefully to participate in the 2021 season - but it could be 2022 depending on Covid! - with a vision of competing in some WSSP300 wildcards if we can get up to speed fast enough.
“Oscar Picañol has an Artic and a workshop based just outside Barcelona, so it will be a joint venture, to nurture young talent and give the same guidance that I was fortunate to receive with the MotoGP Academy back in 2005.
“Regarding ‘Project 109’, this is an ever-evolving project between myself and [ex-GP rider and European Stock600 Champion] Corti - hence the title, 71 + 38. Project 109 will run parallel with the race team by supplying coaching days specifically aimed at the 300 class.
“The 300 category is a great and cost-effective base for ‘training’ bikes - Aprilia have their 250GP, Yamaha R3, KTM 390 and Kawasaki 400 - so we are also looking at how we can provide track-time and schooling to riders on race tracks in Italy, because just like the UK, it’s hard to get track-time under the age of 16, unless you go to the local pitbike/karting track. I have purchased 2 Yamahas from YART to start the ball rolling and I hope to roll out some school dates in Italy in the not-so-distant future, where we will not only coach but also ride with them on track.
“I’m also involved in talks with Silverstone on how to provide the same type of training day programme in the UK, using their tracks and multiple layouts. I’m keeping a close eye on Junior Superstock at BSB and would like our race team to guide the riders into Spain and help point them in whichever direction they want to follow - whether that’s into WorldSBK or towards the Rookies Cup and into MotoGP.”
The Spanish Superbike Championship is scheduled to commence - pandemic allowing - at Jerez in early April, leaving the project just two months to fully prepare for competition with a decision on riders currently in process.
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