Quite how potent Scott Redding was going to be in his first weekend in WorldSBK was a hefty and long-running conversation both in the unreal Twittersphere and the real world trackside.
One stopwatch-melting lap can lie, especially at the tyre-wrecking Phillip Island, but race results can’t. Which makes Scott Redding’s debut weekend of three third places a really strong showing, and conversely a championship field which the ill-informed sometimes still don’t rate highly enough.
Redding is, let us not forget, a career-long MotoGP rider who won the gnarly BSB campaign at his first attempt. WorldSBK may be all new to him but PI is not, Pirelli’s tyre philosophy is not and his Aruba Ducati is not – in maybe 90 per cent of its DNA.
So Redding was always going to be a real WorldSBK deal, maybe even especially so at such a difficult track as PI. All that MotoGP training counts for a lot for rider who approach WorldSBK with the right attitude. And Redding has been doing that admirably. An instant hit; an asset from day one.
What he made of WorldSBK was also positive, and he enjoyed the fights with his new high-speed playmates. He said before the races that he expected a battle and was asked if he got even more battling than expected?
“Oh fuck aye!” he responded, with glee, “I had a good old battle out there! From the TV side it must have been impressive for you guys because I was pretty shook-up a couple of times! Especially with Toprak, the way he overtakes – he comes very late and very straight – and there is no room for error.
“If you don’t accept he’s coming through you will have big contact and you lose time to the guy in front. You need to ride smart and expect. Alvaro tied to stay on the outside of me but I was struggling with the front so he was turning in on me but it was risky for both of us because I was struggling with the front and him maybe not as much.
“He was turning in and I was just locking the front, like nowhere to go, but it was pretty clean racing even though people did bang bars. It was on the edge. I think it was amazing – people battling and even for me, I was thinking, ‘right, I need to do this, I need to go there, that guy’s doing that.’
“I need to watch the racing back in TV because for you guys you did not know who was going, when they were going, and that make sit exciting for you guys and the riders.”
Podium scoring consistency was the first round legacy of Redding’s PI weekend, and he knows that consistency - at this top three level at least - is the minimum it will take to challenge for the title.
“Consistency is the key,” said Redding
After five championship wins from Rea, he was asked if he had learned that from Johnny?
I know he is so super-consistent. But the problem was that I was struggling with the front tyre and I was in a situation where ‘do I push over my limit for the win, and take a big risk to crash, or do I just play on this limit and try to fight for what I can at the end?’
“I took that option in race two because I think three third positions is a great way to start. And it is not that we’re five seconds behind; we were battling to the finish line, except in that last race where there was just under a second. I feel confident and I believe that I can win races and for me that’s very important.
“Coming from BSB, and a lot people doubted me last year before I went there. Some people thought. ‘Yeah, he’s good but that I didn’t have what it takes to be in WorldSBK’. It does make you think yourself, ‘do I?’ Yeah, I have. Now, today I’ve shown that I can do the job here and I know going to Qatar I know that going on that did I can win races.”
Thanks to the Coronavirus consternation the Qatar grid formation laps may have to wait, and maybe even the theoretical third planned round in Jerez, but especially at tracks he has recent BSB or GP knowledge of, Redding looks more than capable.