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EXCLUSIVE:How 'reborn' Scott Redding defied doubters & demons to get back on top

In our EXCLUSIVE interview, Scott Redding details how depression dogged him upon leaving MotoGP... and the moment he turned it all back around

Scott Redding - Aruba.it Ducati, WorldSBK 2021


“I was in a position that I hated. I didn’t want to race. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be around people. I was just doing a lot of crazy shit to hide it, basically…”

Scott Redding is accustomed to wearing his heart on his sleeve as prominently as the ink on his tattooed arms.

This refreshing openness to share his feelings brings the rough with the smooth, and sitting down with Scott amid a minor slump in form that has seen him fade in the 2021 WorldSBK Championship title fight brings out a blend of the two as we discuss the respective lows and the highs of the last couple of years.

And yet there remains this underlying sense of pride that he has not only rebuilt his career, but he has done so from such a low ebb and, more importantly, done it entirely his way.

Much ink has been spilled over the past couple of years detailing Scott Redding’s renaissance in the Superbike arena after his MotoGP dreams were realised, only to find himself departing again after five seasons spent largely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

However, this Superbike-angled revival has done more than simply invigorate a career he admits he was close to ending there and then. It has re-established his reputation as a world class racer and, more importantly for the man himself, it has given Redding the hunger to succeed and the mental focus to rebuild his life from a dark place.

“I’ve always been that kind of underdog who needs to prove himself. That was the situation I kind of went through at Aprilia. They promised the world [but] I got more or less nothing. I just got really depressed and hated racing and hated everything and everyone.”

Redding has spoken at length about his difficulties fitting into life at Aprilia, where the combination of an uncompetitive bike and friction with management resulted in him trying (unsuccessfully) to get out of his deal before the 2018 MotoGP season was over.

Without the equipment to impress and allowing his concentration to wander, Redding realised quickly his 2018 MotoGP season would be his last. Despite the ignominious exit, Redding came away from MotoGP knowing he had dug deep over five seasons with modest tools at his disposal albeit with relatively little to show for it in terms of results.

In those five years he secured two podiums but by the time of his departure, the motorcycling world had forgotten he was (at the time) the youngest ever GP race winner [at Donington Park in 2009 aged 15] and Moto2 runner-up in 2013. 

Redding initially looked towards WorldSBK but he’d find the reception welcoming only if he happened to come with the caveat of cash, a deal he bluntly refused, saying ‘there’s no way I’m going to pay to risk my life’.

Scott Redding 'broken' by emotional toll of MotoGP exit

With his Aprilia stint taking a toll on his mental health as he bit his tongue - particularly after a hefty and public rebuke from the team for calling the bike s**t -, Redding admits he was willing to give up on his career altogether. However, after finding pleasure in having the flexibility to try his hand at anything that demonstrated his talents, he’d accept an offer to join Paul Bird Motorsport in the British Superbike Championship aboard a factory-assisted Ducati Panigale V4 R for 2019.

“People thought, “Oh, he doesn’t really care. Look, he’s doing this, he’s doing that.” But it was for me to hide my real emotion to try and get through it, and it broke me. I finished that season and I said, I’m done. I don't want to do this anymore. 

“Then after two or three weeks I was thinking, that’s not you. It was my depression telling me that. So I said, okay, let’s get a bike, get a team that can win. I don't care if it’s jet ski, horse racing, I don't care. I’ll do anything that shows people I can do it.

“I said to my manager, “Get me a bike in a team that can win and let me show to myself and everyone else that I can win.” Everyone doubted me all the time. I’ve never really been on a really good bike, in MotoGP I never really had a bike that could win races. I had a bike that could maybe finish top eight, top ten. 

“I’m coming to BSB. I have one of the best bikes with one of the best teams, and I won with the odds against me. I broke my femur a month before the first test. I’d never raced a Superbike, never tried Pirelli tyres, never been on the circuits. So it opened the eyes of the people, like, ‘oh, actually this kid can ride, he’s not talking s**t’.

“So, I put myself back on the map and I filled myself with energy and confidence which then allowed me to say, okay, I will go to superbike with a good bike and a good team. I’m not going to ride anything just to ride it. I need to win to feel good.”

"BSB was just what I really needed in my career"

While few in MotoGP would consider a route to WorldSBK via BSB, Redding says he learned a lot the domestic series where the electronics-free bikes require a firm hand, the format is stacked towards ensuring a showdown finale and where you need to get your elbows out to jostle for position.

Moreover, though Redding set himself the highest possible target to win the title, it was a year spent rediscovering his passion for racing on track and the balance of enjoying life off it too.

“I had a year of fun, and it was just completely out of control but it made me enjoy the sport again and I enjoyed racing. I realised that I actually do love to be competitive and that’s the reason I do it. Eating more or less whatever I want, doing whatever I want, and the results were coming. It was just a nice year that I really needed in my career.”

Winning the 2019 BSB title booked Redding a ticket to the WorldSBK - with a salary this time - but while he is certainly relishing the opportunity to fight for wins week-in, week-out he admits it has required him to tap back into some of that MotoGP mentality.

“You can’t be that guy at BSB really in the world superbike paddock, because when you ride for a factory team and there’s a lot of high-level sponsors and you need to be professional, it gets frowned upon quite bad. 

“You can get away with it in BSB because that’s how people are. You aren’t a factory team. It’s factory backed, but at the end of the day it’s each individual team. So, you get leeway. I really enjoyed that and I took advantage of that and it was amazing. But now, I can’t do those things. 

“I’m growing up. I am getting older. I ain’t getting younger. You start realizing that you’re not 16 anymore. You are like 28 and there’s different things in life that you start to focus on.”

Indeed, you cannot fail to admire Redding’s steely resolve and the unconventional yet rewarding path he has forged towards this moment.

However, he isn’t shy in emphasising how lowly that path began and how heavily he felt the weight of pressure on his shoulders, either from the team, from those commenting on social media and - most of all - his own expectations.

“Being in that hole, and people around almost don’t see it because you’re living the good life. You’re a MotoGP superstar. You have nice cars. You don’t work because this is your job. It’s beautiful. But inside, it’s horrible. No one can relate to that. 

“So, sometimes when I see a rider struggling and stuff, I can understand how they feel because I’ve been there. Even talking to family, they don’t get it. They try to understand, but they won’t ever understand what it’s like to have millions of people watching you, hundreds of thousands of people commenting, and it all feels against you. You never see any positive."

While Redding still evidently carries the scars of that time, he has used them to inspire him into today’s unfiltered, devilishly fast fan favourite. Or as he puts it, he has been ‘reborn’

“The only way to get out is yourself. No one can really guide you or help you. You just have to say, right, I want out. Get away and start over. That’s what it tried to do.

“I just feel like a bit of a reborn rider.”

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