After winning Navarra’s inaugural race on Saturday, then the 10-lap Superpole sprint on Sunday, Aruba.it’s Scott Redding looked to be on course for his first WorldSBK triple this weekend.
The Ducati rider, however, had to leave his career WorldSBK Race winning total on 10 after Sunday afternoon’s final battle, despite pushing hard after a few hairy early laps.
Third for much of the race, behind eventual winner Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea, Redding pounced four laps from the finish when Rea made one of a few slides and rode to a slightly outgunned second place.
Win, win, second at Navarra, was enough to bring him to within 38 points of what are now joint leaders - Rea and Razgatlioglu.
“It was hotter for me, just the pure fact of being behind two bikes,” said Redding after his day’s exertions. “It was a little bit more physical for me because I couldn’t ride the bike to the full potential. It was a bit more breezy feeling. I kept losing the front a bit.
“Yesterday I looked very clean, and I could get the lines, pick the bike up. Today I was a little bit deep in places. When I do that, I can’t use the dry grip. That’s why I couldn’t pass in the straight. Everything was OK, but I got to the apex sliding. I’m happy.”
He was more than that, of course. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m over the moon. I was third (in his mind for a while until he took second place). I was thinking at one point, I was feeling a bit tired because I had basically done two race runs on Friday as well, which was probably not the smartest thing for me to do, to be honest, when I look back now.
“I’ve done a lot of laps this weekend, which when it’s hot it can sometimes take a bit of a toll on you. I didn’t sleep well this weekend. I was a little bit tired in that last race, but at the same time, you just bite down on the gum shield and you just dig in.
“I thought, ‘third, maybe it’s OK. I don’t feel good.’ Then I thought, ‘come on. You can still have a go at this.’ Then I managed to get through on Johnny. I just pushed a little bit to try and catch Toprak. Then I was risking more and I thought, hero to zero can happen real fast right now!
“Sometimes you’ve just got to settle for it. If I was in front, I believe I would have had the pace to maintain and to win. I just couldn’t do my own thing. It’s OK. I’m happy with that. Overall we took points out of the championship and won a Superpole race. Haven’t done that for a while, so that was good.
“We just look on for Magny-Cours. It was good racing here. Just a little bit on the bumpy side, but again, same for everyone. I look forward to coming back here. It’s a fun track.”
Redding again denied that having the pressure of where he will be riding next year taken off his shoulders, and easing some stress about performing inside the sometimes tense Ducati camp, was not why he was riding to the best overall performance of the Navarra weekend.
“No, not really - it doesn’t make a difference to me,” said Redding. “It is what it is. Doing this doesn’t make a difference to how you ride. There was more chance of that affecting me from my cycle race on Tuesday than when I come here!
“I really try to approach my racing now very easy and relaxed. It’s helping me a lot. This came after Donington. After Donington I was like, ‘stop stressing so much.’ You can ride a bike fast. Just let it do its thing. Then it kind of worked, and that’s what I’m kind of staying with.
“The good thing is even now it wasn’t easy for me at the end, I was in contention for the win, for the podium, not like this to make third. I was like, how I feel, I can be competitive. If I can maintain this rhythm, then I can fight for the championship by the end of the season. We go to some tracks and it will be more difficult for us, but if I can stay relaxed and make the best and take maybe third, third, third instead of fourth, fourth, fourth, we’ll be there.
“I look forward to the rest of the season. It’s been good. We changed nothing on the bike, zero on the bike. Even Gio my crew chief was like, “You know, this…” I said, “Don’t worry, mate.” I can do more. When the bike is in the ballpark, I can ride the bike around some of the problems. If I change something, there’s more chance of making it worse. The bike won yesterday. The bike won this morning. There’s no reason why it couldn’t have won this afternoon. That’s just how it is. Sometimes you don’t quite get it as good as you want, but second – I’ll take that all day long.”
Redding knew Rea was in a bit of bother near the end of race two, and was working out a plan to pass when an opportunity was delivered to him.
“I saw him having a little bit of an issue” said Scott. “That’s when I thought, ‘I’ve got you now, I’m struggling but I’ve got you.’ In another moment, I just keep breathing and see that plus zero, plus zero, plus zero. It’s the worst thing you want to see when you’re not feeling good. I was struggling a bit with the front, but I didn’t have plus zero on the board. I was just seeing him have plus zero. So, I thought, ‘I know you feel worse than me right now’. Just waiting for that moment. The moment came. I took it. Then I put the hammer down a bit to get a bit of a gap. That’s the racing.
“In theory, I could have won that race today if I was maybe a bit more aggressive in the beginning and tried to get away at the front. You can’t always take that extra step of risk, because the race pace was faster now compared with yesterday. I wasn’t really aware of it. It’s something that I’m never aware of. My race two, I never think it’s faster, but it’s always faster. So, that’s what I learned today, is actually I need to go a little bit more in race two, because they go a little bit more. So, that’s something that I learned today, which is really good. I don’t normally take notice. I think, see you later. Now I realise actually I need to make a bit of a step in race two.”
Redding said that he always expected to be in something of a three rider championship fight, and with the - current - Ducati rider now 38 points behind his two rivals - not the 50 point deficit he arrived in Spain with - it really is a championship fight.
“I said at the beginning of the year it will be me, Jonathan, Toprak. Maybe sometimes Rinaldi, Locatelli, these guys, they will be there. Consistency, and for a championship, I think at the moment we are a bit of a step above the others but it’s still good because we’re all together.
“We’re always battling, which is amazing for the championship. I think when it’s that close and we’re going head to head every single race, it’s quite cool because you don’t know who’s battling. It was good. Championship-wise, it’s really good. For my stress level, not so good and probably for their stress level not so good.
“You know every time we go in the race you’re going to be battling with them. I made that agreement with myself when I’m on the start line. You’re going to be battling. Accept it. You never think, OK, now I get away and two fingers in the nose. You have to do that three times a weekend. It ain’t good for the old grey hairs coming in!”
Redding’s starts are better than they were, even in Most, when all Ducati riders had been having issues at some stage. This weekend? Straight off the mark, pretty much, even though a delayed start to the final race when Kohta Nozane’s Yamaha had an issue on the grid, and Lucas Mahias got his Kawasaki tangled up in regulatory red tape, caused him a few worries.
“I had the clutch slip because of that. I was there. The guy was kind of waving the flag and I was like, what are you doing? Get out of the way, get off the track. He’s there and the guy is telling him to stop. Our clutch is quite temperamental. It’s like, do I go in neutral but then if the lights come on? They delayed and I looked back and someone obviously had an issue, but then we had to do the sighting lap again and the start. My clutch was slipping, but then it cooled down and it was OK. It is what it is. The start was all right, I think.”
With the final Navarra race counted down to 22 not 23 laps, Redding feels he still would not have had enough time to catch Razgatlioglu. He would have needed a better first few laps, not the final two or three.
“One lap, you don’t know,” he said. “I had a bit of a dig, but I think also when you get to that point in the race, you might get two-tenths a lap. You ain’t going to take half a second, half a second, unless there’s somewhere where the track is temperamental with tyre. So, I had a bit of a dig, put a bit of pressure that maybe he’s going to push and crash, but it didn’t happen. So, I settled for second. One lap less, it’s OK.”