Scott Redding to clean up like Mr Sheene
Moto2 rider on verge of becoming first British champion since the 1970s icon
Sunday 01 September 2013
Scott Redding needs no reminder from a sports psychologist of his strategy for bringing a world motorcycling championship to Britain for the first time in 36 years, for the two-line mantra is tattooed onto his inner left forearm.
Under his leathers as he lines up for the 18-lap Moto2 race at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone today, the message reads: "Don't count every race, make every race count."
"I'm just focusing on being consistent," the 20-year-old from Quedgeley, Gloucestershire, said yesterday, before he stepped aboard his 180mph Kalex-Honda for qualifying.
"I can get too aggressive as I want it so bad I just go for it. But it's not always the best way. Sometimes you have to take two steps back to go four forward. That for me is the biggest thing — just calming myself down, staying focused and doing every little thing right."
That approach has earned Redding a 21-point lead in the Moto2 championship after 10 rounds, even though his title rival, the 22-year-old Spaniard Pol Espargaro, has won three races this year compared to the Briton's two. If Redding can work the consistency theme for a further six races after today, he will finish the season as Britain's first two-wheel grand prix champion since Barry Sheene took the 500cc crown way back in 1977.
"To win a world title would be a really good way to give something back to the people who have given so much to me," he said. "It is also good for British motorsport to have someone fighting at the front."
It has taken a world of stress, struggle and expense to get him this far from the days when he started racing a 50cc Mini-Moto bike as an eight-year-old. His father Adrian, a window fitter, and uncle Daryl, a farm worker, have shouldered much of the financial burden.
"It's a lot of money," said Redding. "Even the minibikes are not cheap to do. To pay for the races, the fuel, the fuel for the camper, the tyres, the motocross bikes, the training bikes. My dad and uncle took me to Spain, Italy, France every other week to get me where I am."
How much have they spent on him exactly? "To be truly honest, it's around one million or just under. It's basically broken the family. Now it's my turn to start paying them back.
"I've had some tough years. I thought my career was over in 2009 when I had a bad bike that broke down 24 times. We had three exhausts break, two punctures, the seat snapped, the rear shock broke out of the swinging arm — it was a never-ending trail of disaster."
But his talent was spotted by Michael Bartolemy, the manager of Belgium's Marc VDS team, who signed him in 2010. "Once we shared a hotel room at the Valencia Grand Prix and I saw him training in there until his eyes turned red," Bartolemy said. "I knew that he had the drive to succeed. Now I treat him like my fifth child."
Today Redding will line up with 30 rivals, mainly in their teens and early 20s, in a bid for the winner's 25 points at the end of a 66-mile contest. Doesn't the nervous tension overwhelm the desire to be consistent?
"It's not really nerves," Redding said. "You're nervous but you're not, because you work on your mentality to block things out. You are just so focused in a zone. It's a strange feeling and you can't explain it."
Now the West Country boy lives in Switzerland, but it's not a high-flier's existence. "I like it there because it's central to the European races," he said. "I'm not into flash cars and all that stuff. I drive a Volkswagen Caddy van; it's my little beast, a bit hammered with no wheel trims on it. I just chuck all my stuff in the back to go training."
A top motorcycle racer with an athlete's body could presumably have his pick of racetrack groupies, but Redding said: "I don't go around chasing chicks all the time. I have my moments, but I like to settle down with someone. If you had asked me two months ago, I would have said that I'm in love with a serious relationship. It finished, but I am seeing someone now. You need someone to fall back on."
Redding has already earned fame by becoming the youngest rider to win a race in the 64-year history of grand prix racing, in the 125cc British round in 2008.
Already his success in Moto2 has earned him promotion to motorcycling's ultimate category, MotoGP, on a 1000cc Honda for Italy's prestige Gresini team in 2014. British fans this afternoon will be hoping that he can clinch a famous triumph that could propel him there as the Moto2 world champion.
Boy racers: Life in the fast lane
Scott Redding/Barry Sheene
Background West Country boy/Sharp Londoner
Age at first GP win 15 years old/20 years old
Habits Pedalling his bike/Smoking
Girls One-girl guy/Played the field
Car Shabby VW Caddy/Rolls-Royce
Famous for Youngest GP winner, in 2008/Winning two 500cc titles
Quote We're not horrible to each other, it's about being better than the other guy/Before I met Steph [his wife], racing a bike was great for crumpet
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