Scott Redding and his legions of fans probably really were hoping for wins first time out but three third place podium finishes in his first three WorldSBK races were still pleasing, and a vindication of his abilities.
Everyone knew it but Redding went out and showed it at Phillip Island despite having to fight with his front tyre in all three outings.
“Front row, fastest lap,” Redding told bikesportnews.com. “I am in a pretty good position to be honest for the beginning of the year. I gave it everything that I had but my biggest problem was the front tyre.
“I was trying my best to manage it in all the races, even the sprint race. You could probably see I was doing some strange lines in race two but I was trying to use anything I had from my experiences in the past with Michelins or Bridgestones but unfortunately it isn’t enough.”
All that said about the difficulties, Redding did as much as anybody could have expected, even given the high expectations that followed him into WorldSBK. “We were strong, the bike worked well and the team worked really well because they didn’t put any pressure on me,” said Redding.
“They could see I had to fight and was getting roughed up in Race 1. I did get stuck in for the second and third races, because I wanted to show that I could race like that. We know that, but sometimes you have to just show it as well.”
Still at the beginning of his learning trajectory, Redding said of his near winning pace, “We need to improve in some small areas on the bike to help me but we’re in the battle for the win. Two times we were less than a tenth from the win. That’s not bad going for my first time in WorldSBK.”
The final race was toughest for Redding, it appears. “The last race I was struggling a bit more with the tyre in that temperature. Just when Toprak had that small engine problem I lost ground to the Kawasakis.
“It was one of those races with a massive group because everybody was kinda saving the tyre, etc. The satellite boys were trying to get in as far as they could. It unsettles your rhythm a little bit but you need to stay focused and stay calm.”
Calm was how Redding spoke but he admitted to some nerves again. “I was in a high stress situation all weekend from learning and understanding everything. I think we are lying second in the championship and it’s a long season, not a sprint race through the season.
Overall I’m very happy but do I have some work to do? Yes I do. Does have the team have a bit of work to do? Yes we do - but I believe that we can come even stronger in Qatar. And I learned a lot and that is the biggest thing for the next race.”
He continued, “I’m satisfied. I have a lot of confidence. There was a lot of pressure going into this weekend, a lot of expectation and I felt that I held my own. We didn’t win but I was definitely in the fight for it and that is what is important. I was the strongest Ducati by a long way that goes to show we have been working well with what we are doing and the team has been phenomenal.”
Now he has raced against his new rivals, not just shared track time with them, Redding was asked what most impressed him about his new peer group.
“The race craft of the other riders really impressed me,” he said. “How smart the riders are. In BSB I had a big advantage last year because they don’t have the race craft and experience like I’ve learned from in so many years of GP. I can control the race from behind. Whereas here, you’re up against guys who are doing the same thing.
“You have to try and be one step ahead again. It is very difficult when you have a guy that has been a multi-times World Champion, feeling confident, and he has been in that position I dunno know how many times. It is one of those things now where I am trying to learn things from him about these tyres.
“Are they saving them, are they pushing? I need to take all that information and see what those guys are doing. I think I handled it quite well. In that last race I would not say I was not ready but I just could not get past when I wanted to go to them and make a move to the Kawasakis on the last lap or two.”
Not long for Redding’s second big push to arrive, I two weeks’ time in Qatar – under the floodlights that knows so well.