The first time he visited the Noale factory he felt like a kid let loose in a toy shop. His Aprilia adventure has given Scott Redding confidence and motivation, just what he'll be needing as the championship kicks off in Qatar. His initial approach with the RS-GP wasn't easy but the Pramac rider now has more confidence and is at ease with the bike.
“I feel good, relaxed and ready. I'm really pleased with this experience, it's like I've always been here. The team gives me confidence but isn't putting me under any particular pressure, though I know they expect results. Of course, we'll see what our level is like in Qatar, but for now I'm calm”.
This is his first time in a factory team. A big step after his experiences in Honda and Ducati.
“There's a lot more work of course but I like it. When a test or race finishes, I like going home to think and then talk with my crew chief and engineers. It's important to discuss things we we're doing now, to try to improve the bike. In a satellite team, you would finish the race and then come back for the next and you'd have the same shit. I enjoy being able to develop the bike and it motivates me to improve. Being in a factory team helps, it means working more but also having more, if you want more you just have to make more effort”.
And what changes in moving from Ducati to Aprilia?
“The only thing the bikes have in common are the wheels and brakes - jokes Redding – The first time I got on the RS-GP, at Valencia, I saw incredible differences, in fact I didn't like it, I wasn't happy. When I moved from Honda to Ducati is was easier, particularly in terms of braking. I've improved in recent months though, getting closer to the limit. I'm a lot more confident now and can ride more naturally, I feel better on this bike. I was struggling to get the Ducati to turn, I'd go in aggressively and make the problem worse. With this bike I can set up the turn, maintain speed and feel what I need to feel. This is a big step forward compared to last year with the Ducati”.
The Noale riders aren't exactly thrilled with the lap times seen during testing but Redding remains optimistic.
“I've trained really hard this winter and think I've improved a lot physically, all round. I wasn't looking for the fastest time during testing, that didn't interest me. I had many things to test. Now I can work on times and race pace, as this is what makes the difference come race day of course. But during the tests I preferred to build, to concentrate on pace. My mentality has changed too. I've tried to understand the bike, I have a whole year ahead of me and I want to learn. As soon as a problem arises, we need to know what to do to solve it quickly. Considering what we've done, i feel ready".
The final test at Losail has seen the Brit draw some initial conclusions.
“Up until Qatar I was really suffering in braking, but we've taken a big step forward. In terms of corner entry, there was some tyre movement which caused me, and some others, to struggle. Mid-turn I feel good, and then as I accelerate out it depends on the mechanical and electronic grip. at first I had trouble but on day two we took a step forward and I'm pleased in that sense. Last year I wasn't able to do the same things, I struggled on entry, on exit, I leaned too much. Now it's all easier. The engineers are giving me what I need”.
Scott also comments on the new Michelin tyre policy.
"No-one likes changing tyres every second. Two years ago I got on well with the rear tyre, then it exploded in Argentina so they removed it and my season was ruined. I prefer stability, though I know many riders are not happy with the front tyre right now, maybe there'll be something new in Qatar".
Lastly, the British rider touches on his goals for the season.
“it's difficult to say, early last year I was fourth in the standings at one point without having done anything particular, just because everyone else was crashing. I think we have what we need to run top eight and then I need to see if I can do better than that or not. I don't want to put pressure on myself, because until race one we won't know what we can do. If I look at what Aleix did last season, I think top eight is possible, and the bike has improved now too".