Britain’s Scott Redding is staring down the barrel of a fourth season in MotoGP and the second with Ducati in the Octo Pramac team. The philosophy of the Italian squad run by Paolo Campinoti - in its 16th season in the premiere class and with Ducati since 2005 - is to grow young talents and to make them shine.
The last one was Andrea Iannone, who spent two years with Pramac before joining the Ducati factory team. The next ones could be the 26-year-old Danilo Petrucci and the 24-year-old Scott Redding.
We sat down with the Gloucestershire rider at the team launch in Naples to see how he thinks 2017 will pan out:
The 2017 season kicks off in a few weeks. How has winter testing been for you?
“I don’t hide that it was a difficult start. I don’t consider Valencia as we tested on the same track of the race weekend but with a different bike. The problems arrived in Sepang where we suffered a lot with chattering and in Phillip Island where we struggled with the entry grip on the rear.
“Every circuit is different, but what was constantly negative for me was the front feeling. I feel quiet high and stiff. We tested a lot of things but the laptimes didn’t show anything impressive. The good news is that we got rid of many things and we are ready for the Qatar test to try different solutions and see the improvement.
“The work has been different this year. The bike is difficult and we had to do a lot of work to find the best setup for me. Anyway, I’m confident. We just need to put our heads down and find the way step by step.”
Which are the main differences between the GP15 and the GP16?
“I feel that the GP16 has the potential, but I’m not using it at the maximum as we are struggling with some turn and some chattering. The difference between the two bikes is small, but I don’t have the same setup. They give me a different front fork, a different rear shock, something different with the engine that makes the engine character a bit nervous. Anyway we made modifications in Australia and we solved the problem with the chatter. We are still working on the setup. The more we go back to the set up I had last year, the more I feel comfortable”.
Do you need to change your riding style?
“In Phillip Island, for example, the engine was more nervous, but it was a bit of everything. I think it’s more the matter of understanding the bike and adapting, I don’t need to change my riding style. I’m still not 100 per cent confident on the bike, especially wit the front feeling.
“I crashed in every test, which is not normally my style, just because I don’t have the feeling with front. I think in Qatar we will test something with front fork to improve my feeling. Looking at the lap times, we are not there at the right time, we are at the moment.
“We are learning also with the electronics. For example In Australia we spent a whole day in the wrong direction. We are working on small details, that sometimes I don’t recognize because they are new to me and it takes a bit longer to realize what is the problem.”
Do you feel you have your team behind you?
“I have always felt good with Ducati and I like the Pramac team. They have always supported me. Of course this year they are a bit more busy on the other side of the pit box with Danilo riding a factory bike”.
Do you feel the support of Ducati? How the arrival of the GP17 in the team has changed the balance in the garage?
“Ducati has always been good in taking the information and they can give you support, but in the end I ride last year’s bike so they don’t want to develop this bike. They can help me only with some setup solutions but you cannot really improve the bike because the GP16 is the past. I understand this.”
How does this technical disadvantage affect your approach?
“I know there is a bit of disadvantage, but at the same time I have less pressure. Danilo has to fight with factory riders, this is his target, he cannot finish with me, he has to beat me every time. While Bautista and Barbera are more my target. So in the end my bike works well and I don’t have the weight on my shoulder to prove something.”
What is your relation with Danilo?
“Our relation was OK until he took me out in Aragon. He tried two times and the third time finally put me down and he didn’t apologize. This was more the problem than the battle in the team to gain the GP17 this year. We spoke about it after and in the end he apologized two races later. But this is the past. The friendship is different because we get along really well but when you have these things…”
This is your fourth season in MotoGP with a 12th, a 13th and a 15th final position… Did you expect to struggle so much after your strong performance in moto2?
“I always struggled because I never had the best material. It has been always like that in my career except from the last two years in Moto2, where I had a competitive machine. I made podiums and won races. I lost the championship because I broke my wrist.
“Then the switch to MotoGP. In the first year I had a Honda production racer and it was a waste of time. The following year I went on a factory Honda but the material was not what they said. It was again a waste of a year. The situation changed last year with Pramac. I felt really good with Ducati. We we started to struggle when Michelin changed the rear tyre.
“Despite that, we could still make some good result like, top eight but we were unlucky with many mechanical problems that cost me three DNFs. Anyway, we still had quiet a good pace and a couple of good races but we need to consider that we arrived at the last race in Valencia with exactly the same bike of the round one, while the majority of the riders on the grid had some evolutions. So it was harder at the end of the season to fight for the top ten.”
Which are your expectations for this season?
“The GP16 is not exactly the same bike that Dovizioso and Iannone had last year. We have a different engine. Just small things in the gearbox and the engine rpm is reduced. It is not too far but it is not the same. My expectations? If we look at lap times, the gap is even closer and the manufacturers made a big step forward. The tests have been really challenging so far, but if we find the right rhythm my target is to finish top ten. I would like to improve my points from last year with some good results.”
Finally what is your feeling with your new chief mechanic Christian Pupulin?
“It’s good. He is a bit like me, he doesn’t show so much but he is really focused. Last year we had a good start, I was fast and everything was easier, while this year we are struggling more. But this is positive. It’s better to work hard now and learn the bike in the test, rather than testing too many solutions on a race weekend.”