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Scott Redding pulled off a highly impressive MotoGP™ debut in Qatar on Sunday, finishing his first premier class race as the leading Honda RCV1000R representative. It appeared as though earlier setup changes had paid off handsomely.
The Moto2™ championship runner-up of 2013 and a title contender all season-long, Redding now joins the premier class with a GO&FUN Honda Gresini open bike. In being a rider of the new RCV1000R customer machine, he is using one of four in the field; the others are piloted by Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham plus Drive M7 Aspar riders Hiroshi Aoyama and Hayden, with the World Champion of 2006 having been the rider Redding has targeted on-track since the pre-season.
“I am really happy with the race,” Redding smiled. “I knew we had similar race pace in testing, but (Hayden) was fast this weekend – especially with the one hot lap. I was thinking, ‘If I can stay with him for five or six laps and see some things in the race, then I’ll be happy.’
“In the end, I felt stronger than him and learned a lot from him in the race; this guy is not slow…he is a fighter and he was pushing. For me to follow him and see all the little things is really good and helped me a lot, but to fight him and be in front of him was really nice. I was really happy. Just a little bonus to the weekend.”
The 21-year-old from Gloucestershire began the weekend in 19th position, in Thursday’s opening practice period. By the end of the third session on Friday, his best lap time had improved by one and a half seconds and he would go on to qualify 16th on the grid. This followed some notable changes to the configuration of the bike.
“During practice we worked on the chassis setup, looking for a better feeling with the front end,” explains Diego Gubellini, Crew Chief to Redding. “In particular, we had already prepared a bike - Scott’s second - with a shorter wheelbase, obtained by approaching both the front and the rear wheel, thereby keeping the same weight balance as the other bike. We tried it casually during Qualifying 1, following a problem with a sensor on the front wheel of the number one bike, which we’d been using throughout the weekend until that moment.
“Scott immediately loved this different geometry; in fact, it helped him to reduce the feeling problems with the front end and, as a result, he improved his lap times by about half a second. Finally, I was surprised by the strategy that Scott took in the race: very aggressive in the early stages, later working a lot on his riding style in order to preserve the tyres, as we used the soft rear tyre available for the Open bikes.”
Redding would end the season-opening Grand Prix with nine points in his pocket, beating Hayden to the finish line by just 35 thousandths of a second. His next challenge will be Round 2 in Texas, where he finished fifth in Moto2™ last year.
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