Interview: Luke Smith!
Over the last couple of years Luke Smith has been focusing racing in England and competing in the Maxxis British Championship, it looks to have really improved him as a rider. This year he is back living at home again and has competed at the first two rounds of the Ulster Championship at Desertmartin and Seaforde.
Smith has been battling right at the front and seems to have really improved his riding over the last couple of years. It’s nice to see another name battling for race wins in a competitive Ulster MX Championship. Luke currently sits second in the championship after two rounds on his Moto 4 Husqvarna UK machine.
We decided to catch up with Luke to discuss how his season is going so far.
Gatedrop: Luke, how did the second round of the Ulster Championship go for you?
Luke Smith: Yeah, today was pretty good. I started the day off with a second in qualifying and went through to Superpole when I ended up with third, I was happy enough with that. I got good starts all day, in the first race it took me a wee bit of time to get past James Mackrel and then Jason got by me but I rode strong for a good second.
In the second race I got out in front after a few laps and managed to stay there. The race was red flagged due to a falling rider but I managed to get the win in that one. In the last race there I didn’t get such a good start, I was fourth or fifth. The track was really really dusty so I just sort of stayed content and sat in fifth to get home save. I am pretty tired after the British Championship yesterday so happy with how today went.
Gatedrop: In the second moto do you know what happened with the red flag, it looked like you might have been involved with a back marker?
Luke Smith: No, when we went down into the bottom corner there, the rider was already down and at the side of the track on the way down the hill. As you just turn to go up the hill I crashed on my own actually. I just slide round on myself there and it took me a bit of time to get back up and get the bike started and things. I wasn’t involved in the incident.
Gatedrop: The last couple of years you have been focusing on the British Championship but you’re riding at home more this year, what’s the reason for that?
Luke Smith: Last year I had actually moved over to England there to race, I was living in Manchester for the majority of the year and then south Wales. Being over there it was obviously a bit harder to come back and race at home.
This year I am back at home working and stuff. When I am home and there’s no British or MX National races on then I’m hoping to do all the races at home that I can because it’s still good to race here with the home boys and ride the tracks again.
Gatedrop: A couple of years ago here you weren’t really battling for the wins but since you’ve focused racing in England it has really seemed to help bring you on as you are right at the front now..
Luke Smith: Yeah, riding in England definitely brings you on. It’s just so intense over there and it’s such a fast pace. To be honest when I moved into the adults a couple of years ago I did struggle, mentally more than anything else. I just had to get my head around being with the Experts. I looked up to the likes of Dicky and Hammy, all of a sudden I was racing with them. It did take me a bit of time to get my head around that.
Being in England I am sort of having the same problem I would say but obviously racing with Jason and Glenn week in, week out, it’s normal now. I am able to relax, ride like I can and perform how I want.
Gatedrop: Racing at home at battling for wins must be good for the confidence and maybe that can help you when you race in England?
Luke Smith: Yeah, definitely. I mean it’s good to be having good battles again and being up front, battling for the win or top threes. It is good for the confidence for sure and I am going to try and do as many as I can. It’s good for myself and good to be racing up front again. Hopefully that can help my confidence and I can take that with me to England when I am racing over there.
Gatedrop: You have competed at the first two rounds of the Ulster, do you know if you will do them all to try and fight for the title?
Luke Smith: I’m not too sure what we are going to do yet. I would obviously like to do the full series, I’m sitting in second in the championship at the minute. I will do as many as I can and if I can do the full series then I definitely will.
I am working at the moment and where I work, I may have to do some Saturday mornings on occasions. I may have to work but by all means if I can get it off to do all the Ulster Championship then I will definitely do all the rounds.
Gatedrop: There has been three rounds of the British Championship so far, how is that series going for you this year?
Luke Smith: To be honest the British has been a massive struggle for me this year so far. Just two weeks before the first round of the British, I crashed practicing and give myself a bit of concussion. I took a bit of time off the bike and rode a few days before the first round, I had another big crash and landed on my neck, I damaged a few muscles around my neck and damaged a few ribs and things. That was just a couple of days before the first round so I was in a lot of pain at the first round and especially with it being a mud race, it was extremely tough.
After that week my body was really sore so between myself, dad and the guys that help out we decided to miss the second round at Lyng. We figured there would be no point in going unless we were fully fit again as we were no were near fit at the first round. Yesterday we had the third round at Canada Heights, it went a wee bit better and it was good to get a base as we hadn’t really got one at all for this year yet. We had a decent qualifying, I just struggled a lot with starts to be honest. The pace is fast there, you aren’t going to come from the back. If I can get my starts dialed over there like the same as I can do at home. I know I’m fast enough and I know I’m fit enough to run up there, to get inside the top fifteen. I just need to get a start and if I can ride like l know I can then I will be able to stay there.
Gatedrop: In the British Championship there seems to be about fifteen riders all the same speed, just how hard is it to get points?
Luke Smith: It is, it’s so difficult. As I was saying there the start is so crucial. If you can get a start inside the top ten, top fifteen then you have a good chance of staying around there as like you said, everyone is the same speed. But when you start like I did yesterday in twenty-fifth or thirtieth position, it’s so hard to make up time and especially at Canada Heights yesterday. It was very fast and one lined as it got rough. It was extremely hard to make passes when you did catch the riders in front. As I said the starts are crucial, once I get those sorted I know I can run with the guys because I do have the pace for that.
Gatedrop: On a positive note you look really comfortable and fast on your Husqvarna, you must be happy with the bike?
Luke Smith: Yeah the Husqvarna 250 I am on, the engine is done by MTech Tuning and I have a super engine this year. The bike is really strong and really fast, I have really good power throughout. The suspension is dialled in awesome for me thanks to Planet Suspension. I am more than happy with the bike, it’s just getting my head around everything and being able to ride how I can when I go to the races.
Gatedrop: There’s an MX National next weekend, will you be competing at that or will you just focus on the British Championship in England?
Luke Smith: Yeah I am registered for all the MX Nationals and I am planning on going to Lyng here next weekend. I think to be honest what I have been doing in past years when I have been struggling with confidence, I’ve got over it by continuing to do it, getting used to it and then improving. The only way for me to do that is by keeping at it, keep pushing, training and riding hard. Hopefully I can get some good starts and show myself that I can run up there, get the confidence up and I know I will be able to do it every week then.
Gatedrop: What are your goals for the rest of the season?
Luke Smith: In terms of the British Championship I know I can run top fifteen and if I get my starts sorted I don’t see any reason why I can’t be in the top ten. I know I’m fast enough and that I’m capable of doing that.
In terms of the MX Nationals, I’d like to be top five or top ten in MX2 and I think that’s realistic. There are a lot of fast riders that do that series but again I know I can run up there if I get a start. The British Championship wise is pretty much gone not having scored any points after missing a round and being hurt and things. I just want to get the results I mentioned and build on from there.
In terms of at home if I get to compete the full Ulster Championship I would love to get an Ulster title again, it’s been a couple of years since I won one, I want to challenge for the title if I do them all.
Pics: Nigel McKinstry