WorldSBK: Quick hits from Saturday – Redding claims his first win
Four races, four winners and four close battles at the front. WorldSBK in 2020 is certainly shaping up to be a very different campaign to twelve months ago but opening race of the Jerez weekend showed that some riders have a slightly bigger knife at the disposal.
Race 1 saw Jonathan Rea, Scott Redding, Toprak Razgatlioglu, Loris Baz and Chaz Davies all battle at the front. It wasn’t the free-for-all we saw in Australia but was no less enthralling. A tactical battle at the front of the field saw Rea leading the way and controlling the pace. The Kawasaki rider was struggling for front end feeling during the race and kept the pace low to conserve his tyre life.
However, Rea was mostly delaying the inevitable with Redding always likely to attack. With 60C track temperatures this was one of the hottest races in WorldSBK history and Rea knew that he faced a very tough task:
“That was our best race at Jerez in years,” said Rea after finishing second. “I’m satisfied with what we achieved but I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t do more when Scott came past. I had a couple of slides on the front that took away some confidence so we probably have a bit too much weight on the front wheel. As soon as I released the brakes I didn’t have enough feeling from the front.
“I expected Scott to overtake and I’d have made the same move. I could hear his bike, his rhythm was better than mine and it was clear he’d try to pass. Scott made some mistakes [when he was in front] but with his power he could compensate for them. My mistakes had a bigger impact on my lap time.”
While it was clear that Redding would attack for the lead his race was a very controlled example of how he has matured. He managed the race from behind, always a very difficult task, and when he needed to make progress he hit the front. Having started from pole position he dropped to third in the early laps but never panicked. Sitting behind the Yamaha of Toprak Razgatlioglu he bided his time until he saw Rea starting to open a gap. Immediately, Redding made his move.
“I didn’t want to start to fight with Toprak because once you fight you lose time and it would mean Johnny would be gone. I just waited until Johnny started to edge away a little. When I passed Toprak on turn one and he then passed me back outside on the brakes and my feeling with the front meant I could not brake any later. I knew that I needed to get past Toprak because Johnny was getting away. I managed to make it stick and then I pushed to stay with Johnny. I stayed a few laps there and then thought that I had the pace to go but I felt bad with the front tyre.
“I had a big slide in turn four, and eight, and I thought do I slow the pace or do I go to the front? I saw that I had started to take a bit of a gap from the other guys so I was thinking the other guys are also suffering too so I just kept continuing the lap time the best I could. I managed to have a little bit to the end. Jonathan was going a little bit wide and I thought if I get close enough in the braking when he goes wide I can go inside.
“At Turn 6 he braked really hard and I was on the limit of the tyre. I was trying to stop, stop, stop, and I thought OK, this is impossible. This corner wasn’t strong for me in the race but I needed to overtake. I could overtake but it wasn’t easy.”
The rest of the way home Redding tried to avoid a mistake and stay out of reach from Rea. The advantage of the Ducati was that with the extra power of the V4R their riders could ride around some of the issues affecting all the riders slightly easier. This was shown by four Ducati’s finishing inside the top eight positions. The red machines work well in the heat and have the top speed to attempt moves on the straights rather than stress the front tyre even more.
“All the riders had problems with tyre tyres sliding,” said Razgatliouglu after finishing third. “”e will try again tomorrow but it is difficult to get good turning and good grip. I am happy with our finish today because on the last lap I was fighting with Chaz and finished third. I followed Johnny but after Scott overtook me the tyres were sliding. After ten laps I was sliding. I was in a good position and I followed Johnny and in the last laps it was not possible to go to the front.”
Another podium and another solid race for the Turkish rider continues his good start to the season. While Chaz Davies struggled in Australia he looks much stronger here in Spain. The Welshman made a poor start but recovered well to finish fourth. He’ll be a contender for the podium once again on Sunday and if he can have a good Superpole race he’ll be very well placed to be a cat amongst the pigeons in Race 2.
Davies attacked through the pack, having bridged a gap, in Race 1 to finish in front of Loris Baz. The Frenchman once again impressing on the Ten Kate Yamaha but front tyre feel meant he couldn’t ride as he wanted during the race. He wasn’t alone in this complaint with almost the entire field suffering in one way or another.
“The front tyre worked really well for me on Friday afternoon,” said Alex Lowes. “I did a lot of laps on it but it did not seem to work as well in the race. I think I need a bit more experience of the Kawasaki in hot conditions to get the most out of it. When we go around Jerez in the winter test the weather is cool you just ride around and everything feels good. When you come here in these temperatures and everything feels different. I did not feel that comfortable on the bike and had to just manage the race the best I could and we will try to improve.”
Managing the situation will be the key for the riders and teams. After Race 1 it’s clear that Ducati has an advantage here but not a massive one. If Rea and the Yamaha’s can make a step they can fight for the win again. Michael van der Mark will be motivated to get to the front, particularly in the ten lap Superpole race.
WorldSBK started with a bang in Australia and it’s backed it up on Saturday in Jerez.