Bradley Smith made an impressive start to his Moto2 career by claiming a top ten finish on his debut in Qatar.

After qualifying an impressive seventh, the Tech 3 rider climbed up to fifth at the first corner before duelling with Michele Pirro for eighth. Smith then held off former 125cc teammate Julian Simon and Aleix Espargaro on the final lap to finish a very creditable ninth.

Speaking after the race, Smith admitted he had surpassed his own expectations.

“It feels awesome to have got a top ten in my Moto2 debut. I’d always set my heart on a top 15, so this is a real bonus. I feel like I earned it though because I am really tired now and the race was quite tough.

Despite his strong showing, the Oxford-born racer admitted there is work still to do to get where he wants to be.

“I learned so much in the race it was unbelievable. Those guys at the front certainly don’t hang around and while I’m obviously happy with my result, we’ve got work to match that pace. I’d say I’m a second a lap behind them at the moment, but I also learned a lot about the bike and what we need to do to take another step.”

“The Tech 3 Racing Team never stop working so I know we will have some improvements for the next race in Jerez. Tonight was as much of a test as it was a race, so we can only get stronger.”

Team Manager Herve Poncharal was also full of praise for the Moto2 rookie.

“Bradley did a wonderful job when you consider this was his first race in Moto2 and I have to pass on big congratulations to him and his Tech 3 Racing Team. He was able to pass Julian Simon, who was a hot favourite a few weeks ago for the title after he finished runner-up in 2010.”

“And he was always fighting with some of the best riders in the world, so this is a fantastic early boost for his confidence. He was consistent all the way through the race and the experience he gained will only make him stronger for the rest of the season.”