Scott Redding, a 15-year-old Gloucestershire schoolboy, yesterday became the youngest rider ever to win a grand prix motorcycle race when he claimed the 125cc event in the British MotoGP round at Donington Park.
Podium officials stopped Redding from taking an under-age swig at the champagne after he won in only the eighth race of his grand prix career on his Aprilia, an Italian bike with a single-cylinder two-stroke engine and a 145mph top speed.
"This is something else!" Redding said after his historic victory. "In qualifying, I got on the front row even though never I've raced at this circuit before, and now I'm standing on the top deck. I don't know how it feels yet – it still hasn't sunk in."
But beneath Redding's ingenuous reaction to his success lies an adult racing brain that won him promotion to the world championship this year – where 15 is the minimum age – from Spain's BluSens team.
"I got an average start, but there were three riders who messed each other up on one of the corners. One of them fell off, and I just went through them all."
Redding then shrugged off the main bunch and closed on the leader, the 18-year-old Italian rider Andrea Iannone. "I followed him for two laps eyeing him up," Redding explained. "I was thinking about passing him on the last corner, but it's easy to crash there. So I kept showing him my front wheel, thinking: 'He might go down.' When he did crash, I thought: 'That's racing.'
"The next lap after Iannone crashed was a bit difficult. I dropped half a second and I thought 'I've got to keep focused. There are still eight laps to go'."
But Redding pottered to a 5.3-second victory – a vast gap in the 125cc category – over the championship leader, the 20-year-old French rider Mike De Meglio. The reigning world champion, Hungary's Gabor Talmacsi, 26, was never a threat – he crashed on the opening lap.
Redding is one of thousands of youngsters in Britain who compete on motorcycles, sometimes from the age of three, in an attempt to reach fame. Redding waited until he was eight years old, but was immediately talent-spotted.
"He ran in our series from 2004, and you could just see his potential," said Roger Keys, who runs a race series for youngsters and is now Redding's manager. "Watch him go into a corner and his speed is frightening. Plus there's his sheer determination not to be beaten."
Redding is helped by his father, Adrian, a window fitter, and his uncle Darrell, but a family split means that he has not had contact with his mother for several years. He receives no wage from his team, and he uses money from personal sponsors for his travel costs and to pay for his father to attend some of the 17 races on the calendar.
"I help him with the window fitting to bring in some money, but ... I can't do that very often," he said.
Still, a talent as evident as Redding's should soon start to earn money in the highly-competitive MotoGP world, where race-winning talent is rare and prized.
"I said before this weekend that I would like to get a podium finish this year. Now that I've got one I've just got to keep getting on the podium," he said.
"Maybe next year I'll try to win the 125cc world championship. My Blusens Aprilia works well, but if I had a bit more power I could go for the title."
Redding's next step would be into the 250cc class for 170cc bikes, and then into the MotoGP category, where current stars Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo both made their debut at the age of 20.Reuse content