WorldSBK: The re-education of Scott Redding
Phillip Island is one of the most tactical races of the WorldSBK season. Managing your tyre is key and understanding this is key. Ducati’s Scott Redding acquitted himself well to walk away second in the standings
Three podiums for Scott Redding marked a great debut weekend in WorldSBK for the Englishman. The former MotoGP rider made the switch to Superbike racing last year in Britain and immediately was a front runner and eventually ran out an easy champion. WorldSBK will be a very different kettle of fish though and he found that out straight away in Australia.
Having honed his craft in the Grand Prix paddock Redding switched to BSB last year and with the depth of field not what he was used to he was able to control races. He’ll do the same at times in WorldSBK but it won’t be every week. At the opening round of the year he was given a crash course in what to expect this year.
“The race craft of the other riders really impressed me,” commented Redding. “They’re very smart during the race. In BSB I had a big advantage because I have the race craft and experience from so many years [of MotoGP]. I learned so much from those years and I could control the race even if I wasn’t at the front. Here you’re up against guys with the same experience and riders like Johnny that have multiple world championships.
“The guys at the front have been in these different positions so often and have lots of experience. I’m trying to learn from them about the tyres and the races. There was so much overtaking and battling with people saving tyres and I’ve got to take that information. I handled it quite well but in the last race I couldn’t quite make my move when I wanted to to be able to attack the Kawasaki’s.
“I had a big old battle out there! It must have looked good on TV because I was getting shook up a few times out there! The way Toprak overtakes leaves no room for error and you have to accept that he’s coming through otherwise there’ll be contact and you’ll lose time to the guys in front. You need to ride smart out there. At times Alvaro was trying to run around the outside of me but I was struggling with the front tyre so he was turning in on me and I was pushing the front. It was clean racing even though there was some bar banging out there. It was amazing because there was so much happening out there. It was exciting for us and for everyone watching on TV.”
It certainly was a wild introduction to WorldSBK for Redding but one that would have overawed him. He’ll be disappointed not to have picked up a win but he definitely laid a good foundation for the year.
“Front row, fastest lap and podiums…it’s a good for the start of the year,” smiled Redding. “I gave it everything that I had but my biggest problem was the front tyre. I was trying to manage it in all the races and I was trying lots of things. I had some strange lines in Race 2 but I was trying to use anything I had from my experiences of Michelins or Bridgestones but it wasn’t good enough. We were strong, the bike worked well and the team were good because they didn’t put any pressure on me. They knew I was fighting and battling but after getting roughed up in Race 1 I wanted to show that I could get stuck in for the other races. We need to improve in some small areas but we’re in the battle for the win.”
While many riders were struggling for rear tyre life it was the front that left Redding scratching his head. The Ducati is kind on its rubber, as shown by Bautista last year, but while the Yamaha riders were spinning up the rear and chewing through their Pirelli’s it was that pushing of the front that was catching out Redding. Phillip Island is a race of management as much as it is performance so to have three podiums is certainly not to be sniffed at.
“I was struggling in Race 2 with the tyre temperature. When Toprak had his problem I lost ground to the Kawasaki’s and couldn’t get back to them. It was a big group with everyone getting stuck in because the pace was about saving the tyre. You need to stay focused and stay calm.”
Getting through the weekend and knowing what to expect from the format and the demands of WorldSBK was important for Redding. There’s a lot to learn in any new championship but he acquitted himself well on what he admits was a jump into the unknown.
“This was a stressful weekend because there’s so much to learn and understand but we’re second in the championship and it’s a long season. Overall I’m very happy but I also know there’s a bit of work to be done for us. I learned so much this weekend and that’s the biggest thing. I’m satisfied and confident after this weekend because I held my own this weekend and that’s what was important. I was the strongest Ducati by a long way this weekend and that’s good.
“Consistency is the key to winning a title. I was struggling with the front tyre and I had to ask myself if it was worth pushing harder, over my limit, to try and win the race or whether it was better to stay on that limit and see how it all ends. I did that in Race 2 because three third positions is a great way to start. We were fighting right there and I feel that I can win races and that’s important for me. Coming from BSB it was important because before I went there people doubted me and said that I was good but that I didn’t have what it takes to win in WorldSBK. Now? I’ve shown that I can do the job here and I’ll go to the next round knowing that I can win races.