As Bradley Smith and Scott Redding manfully fought without success for some precious World Championship points on Sunday I could not help thinking back three years at the MotoGP race in Misano. A race in tricky conditions on the Adriatic coast in which the two British riders finished on the podium behind Marc Marquez. They gambled in the changing track conditions with Smith, riding the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha second and Redding third on the Marc VDS Honda. Roll on those three years and it looks certain we are going to lose both Smith and Redding as full time MotoGP™ riders. All the excitement and optimism generated by those 28 laps at Misano seems a long time ago.
Both riders were products of the Dorna Academy and both came so close to bringing World Championship success to Britain in the smaller classes before joining MotoGP. Smith was runner-up to team-mate Julian Simon in the 2009 125 cc World Championship and won three grands prix in the class. Redding is still the youngest ever Grand Prix winner when he won the 125 cc British Grand Prix in 2008 and went onto finish second in the 2013 Moto2™ World Championship winning three Grands Prix in the class, including his home race at Silverstone.
In that same year of his second place in Misano Smith finished sixth in the MotoGP™ Championship and looked to have such a bright future in the premier class. Injuries and the switch to Michelin tyres slowed his progress and after two years at KTM he is moving on but still in the class as the test rider for Aprilia, which will include some Grand Prix wild card entries. Redding, who finished third at Assen in the rain a year after his Misano podium, could be lost to the class forever after 11 years in Grand Prix racing.
Incidentally I bumped into the other British star from that Dorna Academy a couple of weeks ago on the start line of the TT Classic races in the Isle of Man. As bubbly as ever Danny Webb, a 125 cc pole setter for Mahindra, was about to do battle on a glorious sounding Manx Norton with the 60.271 kms infamous TT Mountain circuit. His grand prix career and the Academy seemed a long way away.
It appears that the so capable Cal Crutchlow will take on the sole responsibility for the success–starved British fans. Those broad shoulders have already ended a 35 year nightmare when he brought the LCR Honda victory in the 2016 MotoGP™ race in the Czech Republic, which he followed up a couple of months later with a superb win at Phillip Island in Australia. The last British winner in the premier class had been Barry Sheene in 1981.
Good luck Bradley and Scott in the future. Cal’s third place at Misano on Sunday shows he still has a good few Grands Prix wins and podiums in him and we hope the new British Talent Cup will unearth somebody, but that will not happen overnight. Barry Sheene was the last British rider to win the premier class in Grand Prix racing 41 long painful years ago and that long wait for the new Sheene to emerge after four decades of disappointment still seems to have no end.