James Whitham: Redding - multi-layered, fun’ lovin’ champion

| | British Superbikes

This isn’t going to be a long column or a rant at anyone but now that it’s over here’s some of my thoughts on the 2019 Bennetts British Superbike season – a season dominated by one bloke.

It seems obvious now that a rider with his pedigree, coming straight from the MotoGP paddock was always going to be the man to beat in any domestic championship. But there weren’t so many voices saying that ten months ago.

When it was finally announced last winter (after all the rumours) that Scott Redding would be racing in BSB it was big news in the trade. I talked with him pre-season and he was saying all the right things, like ‘Can’t wait to ride a bike with no electronics’, ‘I’m so looking forward to learning all the circuits’ but, as they say, talk is cheap.

I remember thinking to myself ‘Really? Is this bloke, talented though he undoubtedly is, going to be ready go elbow-to-elbow with a pack of hard and talented riders round places like Cadwell and Oulton and Knockhill?’

As it turned out, he was. He came with exactly the right attitude, an attitude which said, ‘I’m going to take this seriously, I’m going to learn and I’m not going to be frightened or intimidated by the circuits I have never been to before. And I’m going to enjoy it.’

The second positive thing he brought to the championship was a little bit of fun. He brought the idea that riders can be winners but still seen to be having a proper laugh.

There is nothing wrong with being serious at your job and putting in all the hard yards to make sure you’re well prepared to compete – mindset, physical condition – but still yet knowing how to enjoy yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part riders in the BSB paddock are great people and of course they know how to enjoy themselves but Scott seems to have made it OK to say you’re going to enjoy yourself.

This is, of course, easier to do when you’re winning…

Being in the right frame of mind for some people is training so hard that it nearly kills them, hours in the gym, miles out on the bicycle, and if they need to do that in order to be mentally and physically strong enough that’s fine for them.

The other extreme would be blokes born with all the natural talent in the world who manage to piss it all away, and nobody wants that. But for me there’s a happy medium. A focussed, happy racer makes a fast racer and if being happy for you means you like a couple of beers and a laugh with your mates on a Sunday night, that’s great.

At times, if you looked at the results sheets Redding hasn’t stood out this year because it would have been difficult and/or risky for him to do that around tracks he was unfamiliar with. He’s taken second, third or fourth places when he’s needed to and wins when he could do, but I’ve not seen him run off line more than twice all year and the couple of times he’s been on his arse were not down to him.

It should be remembered that he was almost the forgotten man last season in MotoGP. His career has been rejuvenated in BSB and what we tend to forget (because he has been around for so long) that he’s still only 26. If he should want to he could be racing for another 15 years!

And that’s another positive thing he’s brought to BSB, re-enforcing the idea that it can be looked on by riders racing outside this championship as a launch-pad into (or back into) a world championship.

Jake Dixon headed off into Moto2 after a successful couple of years in BSB. A few years ago Jonathan Rea, Cal Crutchlow and Chaz Davies did a similar ‘go sideways to go forward’ move by dropping into the World Supersport championship as a way into World Superbikes.

It’ll be interesting to see whom Paul Bird at PBM replaces Redding with. There are rumours of Leon Haslam being back in the paddock next year.

For me, though, close racing is what makes a championship and whatever happens we’ll still have that in BSB 2020. And so you don’t just think the above is the ramblings of a sycophant, I have to say that taken in the round Scott was probably on the best bike – the three Ducatis in the series finished first, second and third – and I think it’s a testament to the regular BSB riders that he was pushed to the title by only five points in the end.

This is still by far the most competitive national series in the world, and Brookes, Bridewell, Buchan, Mackenzie, Hickman, Iddon and the rest should be proud of themselves for that.

And will Scott win the WorldSBK title? He’s definitely expecting to run right at the front and who would bet against him being competitive at this point. He’s fit, doesn’t make many mistakes, is used to longer races and those wide open European circuits many of which he will have ridden before. And he’s got a great team and has ridden the Ducati before as well as being used to all the electronics when he was at MotoGP.

But he’s not going to find beating the likes of Jonathan Rea or his team-mate Chaz Davies easy. He’ll slot into the paddock quite easily, I reckon, and he will be a contender but I don’t think he’s going to dominate the championship.

How he gets on will be of great interest to a lot of the BSB riders who are capable of finishing in the top five here, and there are about 15 of them. They will all be really fascinated to see how he performs back on the world stage and gauge their pace from what he does.

A lot of them have run fairly near to him at times and if he does well they might be thinking to themselves, ‘Hmm, I could do that…’

Hope springs eternal!