2016 will be a 'make or break year' for Scott Redding in MotoGP.
After seeing a dream Factory Honda ride turn into a nightmare, the young Englishman made the brave decision to leave Marc VDS for a new start at Pramac Ducati.
“It's a make or break year,” the former Moto2 title runner-up told the official MotoGP website. “To be honest I thought my career was all over last year because I did have a two-year deal with Honda and the team, but after Indianapolis if I carried on what I was doing it was going to be a short-lived career.
“I wasn't going to allow that to happen, so I turned around to my team manager, who was also my personal manager at the time and said, 'Sorry but I can't take the risk of riding this bike next year. Honda have promised so many things to us, but what have we actually got…nothing.'
“I couldn't afford that again. That was when I decided to go to Ducati; I thought I'd take the risk as what was the worst that could happen? I'll make the same results as I had that year. So for me it was positive all round, and so far it has proven to be the right choice!”
Redding has settled in smoothly at Pramac both on and off track - raising eyebrows by leading the final private test of 2015, then setting the seventh best lap time at the recent Sepang test.
The Gloucestershire rider was 1.469s behind test pace setter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and one-second from the leading Desmosedici lap, by his team-mate Danilo Petrucci, also using last year's GP15.
But Redding was ranked ahead of the factory Ducati riders, plus star test rider Casey Stoner, over a single lap - although he got most satisfaction from making genuine progress.
“Last year I would go out in FP1 and be in the top six and then it was a downhill spiral from there. Now I get on the bike, I can put new tyres in and improve; I can match my lap time and also improve on old tyres. That was the biggest thing for us really, especially when you consider the engine we had for Sepang was pretty slow.
“I was saying to the guys I couldn't ride it any harder, can we check the data against Casey's? It turned out we were losing six-tenths on the two straights at Sepang, which I was happy to see as it means I was riding well, it was just down to engine performance. Again, it took some more pressure off and I am happy to work hard in testing and then get some more power for the races.”
Just 13th in last year's championship despite a shock podium at Misano, Redding has long stated that the top six is a realistic target this season. The 23-year-old's testing performances to date have shown it's a credible aim and he insists there is more to come relative to the factory riders.
“My target is to try and be in the top six. A few people laughed at me when I said that but the Sepang test results show that we are not far off that mark. What people also seem to forget is that Sepang was only my fourth, fifth and sixth day on the new bike and also on the new Michelins.
“Where the factory riders of Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki had all tested on the Michelins last year. So every time I go out I am learning more about the tyres, I am learning more about the bike. It is getting easier for me while a lot of these guys are hitting their 'wall' already, where I am just getting stronger.”
Redding will be back on track alongside his main MotoGP rivals during next week's Phillip Island test.