This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (April 2019)
|Born||6 April 1969 (age 50)|
Mol, Antwerp, Belgium
|Years active||1986 - 2005|
|Teams||Vertemati, Husaberg, KTM|
|Championships||500cc- 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000|
Smets was born in Mol, Antwerp. Nicknamed The Flemish Lion during his career, Smets was named after his parents’ favorite rider Joël Robert. He didn't start racing until he was seventeen years old and found his feet on the Grand Prix scene rather quickly. In 1993 Smets won the German Grand Prix, and finished the season in third place in the 500cc championship.
A year later Smets, riding the Vertemati machine, won two Grands Prix and again finished third in the world. By 1995 and racing for the Husaberg factory he was set to clinch his first ever world title, winning the 500cc championship from American Trampas Parker. The battle between Parker and Smets was a tense one with Smets wrapping up the title in the last round of the series in Germany.
A shock defeat by New Zealand's Shayne King in the 1996 season didn't stop Smets from returning in 1997 and taking his second world 500cc title. He followed with 500cc titles in 1998, riding a Husaberg, and in 2000 on a KTM. In 2003, he came up against the Frenchman Mickael Pichon and fellow Belgian Stefan Everts in the newly formed MX1-GP championship. He rode a KTM to a second-place finish behind Everts in an exciting season of racing. Smets also contested the MX3 class for bikes with a 650cc engine capacity in 2003, winning that title and picking up his 57th Grand Prix victory. He moved to the Suzuki factory team for 2004 but suffered a major injury at the season opening round in the Mantova International.
The injury saw him miss his assault on any title in 2004. The 2005 season was another season he would not reach his true potential as he battled to match Everts on the track. He did win races, but could never get that Grand Prix overall. His season ended at the Gaildorf circuit in Germany when he injured his knee.
Smets has also helped Belgium to win the Motocross des Nations in 1995, and 1997. He sits in second place in the all time Grand Prix winners list with his 57 Grand Prix victories, and is only led by Stefan Everts who has 101 Grand Prix wins. In mid-2005 Smets announced his retirement from Grand Prix racing after injury forced him out of the 2005 season and being sacked by the Suzuki factory team.
At the beginning of the 2006 season Smets teamed up with MTM Suzuki to race in international races and the Belgium national championship races. After the 2006 season, Smets retired from international and national racing altogether. At the start of the 2007 season Smets was managing a small team. By mid season Smets had moved to BMW to work on development of their new 450cc enduro machine, which saw Smets competing in some rounds of the World Enduro Championship.