James Whitham: What we need is Redding on Strictly… - Bikesport News

James Whitham: What we need is Redding on Strictly…

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Can Scott Redding win the WorldSBK title next year? I think there’s a chance but it will be difficult for an obvious reason called Jonathan Rea. But I think Ducati are expecting him to do just that or at the very least be right at the front. And he thinks he can.

He has impressed me in a lot of ways this year. One is that he doesn’t over-promise and under-deliver. In fact, just the opposite. If he’s got a concern he’ll actually voice it. I think he’s actually going into the world championship next year thinking that if things go his way he can win it – but not being cocky about it.

He’s going to be missed in British Superbikes, of that there is no doubt, and he’s been brilliant, the crowds have been brilliant and everyone’s benefited. And although it’s not like the cast in a west end musical where if you lose a leading player you need to replace them almost like for like, it would still be good to get someone with some world championship chops. Leon Camier would fit that bill and PBM is the team where everyone would want to go.

But there’s something about Redding that can be called ‘character’ and that is difficult to replace. He turns up at Assen – and I’m not blowing smoke up his arse – he has a couple of wins, and what does he do? Does he bother with any PR or any of the other stuff that top riders have to do these days?

No. He heads off alone in his van, motocross bike and his kit in the back, to meet up with some Dutch mates and do three days motocross practice. Then back to Assen to watch the Motocross des Nations. And then back in his van, across the channel and over to Donington to continue his campaign to win the BSB title.

How lovely is that? It’s brilliant and people buy into that. He says the right thing at the right time, doesn’t try to be a Mensa candidate and says what he thinks. It makes sense to him and even if it doesn’t always make sense to you, it’ll be alright. He’s been good for the championship.

Redding may seem to have been around for a long time and he has. But he’s still only 26 having won his first world championship race on a 125 at Donington when he was 15 and been a real competitor in every class up to MotoGP since then. So who’s to say, with another seven or eight years or more in front of him, he maybe back riding for Ducati in MotoGP in 2021/22 and beyond.

Riders are staying fit and competitive longer these days. Look at Rossi, still capable of winning at 40. And in the BSB paddock the likes of Richard Cooper and Michael Rutter. Why? Well mainly it’s because they don’t get injured as much as riders used to, safer tracks, better apparel, electronics etc. It used to be that by the time you got to 30 you’d been knocking the shit out of yourself for the best part of 15 years, and that for most was enough.

And here’s another thing. People keep saying we’re not developing enough young riders with world class potential. There’s an element of truth in that although I’m not sure it’s that different to where we were 20 years ago, we now dominate WorldSBK - maybe too much - and we have the best domestic championship in the world.

It’s true that we don’t seem to churn young, world-class riders out like Spain but I think that’s mostly down to two really simple factors. First, in Spain every village has a kart track where kids can bat round to their hearts content on mini-bikes for a few Euros and, second, the weather is loads better.

We are producing some good young riders though, look at the Lowes twins and I am sure Jake Dixon will do much better when he has some decent kit which I believe he will have for Moto2 next year. No we haven’s produced a Marc Marquez but only Spain has…

We have just got the British Talent Cup up and running and maybe that, given time, will produce some 15 year old capable of going places although its a pity that Rory Skinner, last year’s winner, didn’t seem to get the support he hoped for. But in many ways we are better than we were but, of course, we would all like more.

Do we need more heroes (or anti-heroes)? Riders like Sheene or even my old mucka Foggy who became famous beyond motorcycling. They were (especially Sheene) household names, sometimes for activities outside of racing and often helped by television.

Currenty, Guy Martin is probably the most famous motorcyclist, not necessarily because of his riding but because he is a quirky character doing unusual things on TV. And people like a character.

It all started for him in the Isle of Man when he got to know the TV production company who were producing the TT coverage. They saw the potential in an oddball, tea-drinking character with a curious work ethic usually turning up with greasy hands having been working on a Scania truck all night. That’s why he’s become famous. People love all that. It’s the Fred Dibnah effect.

It irritates me that people with a load of talent, taking part in a very risky and exciting sport are not as famous as somebody in a reality TV show with no discernable intelligence or talent whatsoever. That really does grind my gears.

But to be famous in bike racing we have to have that elusive quality called ‘character’ however much media training you’ve had or how professional you are. TV helps of course. What we need is Redding on Strictly, Brookes in the Jungle, Bridewell on Ice, Buchan on Bake-off and Hicky on Love Island… well, maybe not… but you get the idea.

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