KTM RC CUP Rider of the Week: Benjamin Smith
On the eve of the MotoAmerica KTM USA RC Cup final, we caught up with the co-championship leader
This week we are pleased to highlight the talented Benjamin Smith as our Rider of the Week. Smith comes into the final this weekend as co-championship leader after a down (crash - taken out by another rider) and up (finished 3rd) previous round at New Jersey Motorsport Park (September 7-8).
Despite the difficult weekend last time out, Benjamin’s tenacity and focus when racing isn’t going his way, shows why he has what it takes to push his dream all the way.
We caught up with the MotoAmerica KTM RC CUP rider on the eve of the big final round to find out a little more about what keeps him going.
Like many young riders, Benjamin followed in his father’s footsteps when it came to his love of bikes. Starting on four-wheelers and dirt bikes at the age of 3, once he turned 10, he got his first taste of track riding.
“Dad raced when I was a little kid and occasionally I would get to see some of the races. That’s what got me hooked,” Ben told us.
His first bike was a CRF100 with street tyres. His first race was in 2011. He stalled the bike off the start twice, however, he was able to come back and win. After completing two full seasons of mini racing on the CRF with NJminiGP, Ben moved on to a 250 four-stroke street bike and in 2013 started riding the big tracks.
He competed in a few races with CSS, but at the end of the season, he got an opportunity to run in Florida. He set the track record that weekend which inspired him to keep focused on his racing career.
“The next season I got an SV 650 to race on and get used to heavier bikes. I did a full season of racing on that bike with CCS. At the end of 2014, I was able to win a championship in one of the classes that I had competed in all year (Amateur Lightweight Superbike). For 2015 I once again competed on an SV 650 with CCS. I got my first sponsorship opportunity from Bob Robbins at the beginning of that year. He was generous enough to lend me a newer SV for the season. Throughout that year I learned a lot and set another lap record on the 650. I did my first wild card round with MotoAmerica at the last race of 2015. It started out well, I was able to lead sessions and finished 4th in the first race. The second race I crashed and injured my finger pretty badly.”
It was in 2016 that Benjamin did his first full season of racing in the MotoAmerica KTM RC Cup series. He relished the experience and support the series provided and having only raced on two of the tracks; he still had a lot to learn.
There was no doubt of Smith’s speed as he was able to run up front in races, but often had a hard time getting to the chequered flag. Continuing his learning progress, Benjamin managed his first podium at New Jersey in September of 2016 and then began in his 2017 in fine style by taking his first KTM-powered win at Round One of this year’s MotoAmerica KTM RC Cup.
We asked Ben why he chose the RC Cup: “It is the perfect platform to develop really valuable skills considering everyone is on equal machinery. It also helps you learn a lot of the important ‘off track’ skills, to. I like the fact that the races have to be won purely on rider skill; it’s not whoever can write the biggest check is going to have the advantage.”
Benjamin’s favourite track in Laguna Seca and if he could go back and do one race again it would be this year’s round at the track. In 2016 he was taken out at the first corner. This year he was looking forward to the race and felt great on the bike however the same incident happened again!
“It was just a racing incident,” he says with maturity. ‘But I hope next year I can make it past turn one!”
As we talked more about his time with the RC Cup series, Benjamin told us that he admires everyone in the series as they are giving it their all. His aspirations for the future are to go as far as his talent lets him. He would love to make MotoGP but is looking forward to working through the ranks.
We asked the cool headed rider to share one piece of advice with others starting out in the sport: “Do not be afraid to lose. The only way that you're going to improve is by being beat and learning from what you can do better. No matter what, always give it 100% every time you're out on track.”
This advice echoes his father, Michael who told us there is one rule when it comes to racing in the Smith family - “We have one rule when it comes racing: Enjoy the ride not just the result.”
Michael went on to say, “Benjamin is an incredibly easy going kid that truly enjoys racing but can be a little tough on himself; we’re working on that. One of the things that I’m most proud of is his ability to learn from his mistakes. After a crash, he’s always been able to get up, dust himself off, and go even faster. A few years ago at his home track, his mechanic (that’s me) put him on the ground with a poor tire choice. He processed the crash, went back out and set a class lap record.”
Racing is a family affair, especially when you are young. Our riders depend on their parents to support them with their training, finances and their school studies too. It is great to see the bond between father and son grow stronger through a shared passion.
Michael ending our chat by saying, “Racing has given Benjamin structure, discipline, and motivation that shows on and off the track. Not only is he an honor student but he has shown time and time to be a leader and go the extra mile as a racer, an athlete, and a human being. I don't know what the future holds for Benjamin’s racing, but I am so excited to be able to enjoy the ride along with him.”
Ben has a great future ahead of him, and that has been helped by his team, Quarterly Racing / On Track Development and his sponsors Bob Robbins, Bill Deal, Arai, Gimoto and Sidi.
Benjamin Smith goes into the final round of the MotoAmerica KTM USA RC Cup this weekend (September 15-17) at Barber Motorsports Park level on 224 points with Cory Ventura, with Alex Dumas only a point behind and Jackson Blackmon also mathematically capable of taking the championship it is all still to play for.
You can follow Benjamin Smith on Instagram @ben_smith118 to keep up with his career!
Photos by Brian J Nelson