Valencia - not only the scene of the year’s final grand prix, but a place that offers scope for reflection. There a long, arduous season grinds to a close. And as it does, performances, strategies and relationships from the 18 previous rounds can be judged with some distinction.

In the case of Scott Redding, 2018’s finale was a chance to assess not only his five years as a MotoGP rider, but an eleven-year stay in the grand prix paddock that began in Qatar, 2008, when a fresh faced 15-year old announced his arrival by qualifying on the front row, and mixing it with the class' leading names.

Prior to his final MotoGP race, the Englishman communicated he was relieved to be nearing the end of his time in the series. As he had intimated in the weeks before, a move to the British Superbike Championship offered fresh impetus, and the chance to compete at the front again, a sensation only occasionally experienced in recent years.

And while Redding had the air of a man eager to embrace fresh challenges, there was one regret: the one that got away. He was, of course, referencing 2013, Moto2, and that ultimately failed attempt at becoming the UK’s first grand prix world champion since 1977. That it ended in physical and emotional agony still seems to bug the 26-year old.

On the Thursday that preceded his final bow in the premier class, Redding had told the assembled media, “The only thing I really wish could have happened is that I got the Moto2 title. That was the only thing on my mind, that really pissed me off. It was not necessary how that happened."

Later, in conversation with Crash.net, he opened up further, detailing the days and weeks during which that title challenge came undone, with rival Pol Espargaro prevailing and Redding ending the season physically broken.

‘They were starting to engrave my name on the trophy’

Redding was in little doubt when asked about the best team for whom he had ridden: “It has to be VDS because they built me up to who I am,” he told journalists. “When Michael [Bartholemy, ex-team boss of Marc VDS and Redding’s personal manager] took me under his wing in Marc VDS he got the right guys around me.

“I was working with Pete Benson. I’ve always said Pete made me almost get that title. He was the rock because he controlled me well. A lot of people can’t tell me to shut up and fuck off. They don’t have the balls to do it. But believe me he did, when I was in my prime, being aggressive, being loud. I was a teenager.

“But he had the balls. He put me in my place and I went, ‘Oh, OK.’ But I respected him for that. We bonded a lot. He had a lot of patience with me. He could see I had the potential, but I had to find the right way.When we did, we was fast. It was great. With Michael, Pete and the whole crew I had in VDS was really good.”

A strong end to 2012 and Marc Marquez’s ascension to MotoGP suggested Redding was one of a select few likely to take over from the MotoGP-bound Catalan. And from the winter tests, he began the year in a position of strength.

Wins at Le Mans and Mugello contrasted to Espargaro’s early struggles. A convincing, memorable win at Silverstone, while his rival came home a listless eighth, earned him a healthy 38-point advantage. With six races to play, Redding was odds-on-favourite to claim a famous crown.

Redding’s brilliant Silverstone win handed him a 38-point advantage with six races to play.

Yet changes to Dunlop’s standard rear tyre from the summer break required Redding to adjust settings and riding style. And Espargaro would not relent. Having won head-to-head battles against Redding at Qatar and Assen, the Catalan maintained his focus as the seasons switched from summer to autumn. At Misano he clawed back 15 points before backing that up with two further podiums at Aragon and Sepang.

“The only thing I wish I did was get that Moto2 title,” Redding told Crash.net. “I would do anything to get that, anything to get that back. And it was more just to go ‘We did it.’ Everything I did, 125s, Moto2 was to get a world title. We came so close. I even saw the helmet designs for it [in case he won the title]. They were even starting to engrave my name on the trophy, I’m sure.

“It was unfair. Something was not normal. I mean, after the summer break Dunlop changed the tyres and made it hard. OK, we adapted but it favoured the other rider. But forget it, I thought, ‘Minimal damage, you’ve got the lead.’ We did it.

‘I was like, ‘Get up, your hand is not broken!’’

Coming to Phillip Island, the pressure was on. A disappointing race at Sepang (Redding finished seventh, to Espargaro’s second) meant his one-time sizable lead had been clipped to nine points. Furthermore, he had lost out to Espargaro for three consecutive races. Things weren’t helped during free practice when the Englishman encountered a chronic lack of rear grip.

“I remember Phillip Island,” Redding recalled. “I was losing in the last sector. I said, ‘Pete, I’m fucking spinning.’ In qualifying it still wasn’t better and I thought, ‘You’ve got to fucking go for it. This is your chance.’ I went for it. Brrrraaaappppp. It was gone.

“It came back clear as day, the front tyre dug in, my wrist snapped, and I thought, ‘Fucking hell!’ I tried to hold on. I didn’t know where I was going. Over. Down. I missed out on the qualifying. I was laid in the gravel and my hand felt weird. I never broke a bone in my body until this day, and I had had some monster crashes. I’m moving my hand. It was broke, completely snapped.

“But my mind was so strong, I was like, ‘The championship! Your hand’s not broken! Your hand’s not broken! Get up! Move! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine!’ I was moving it but that was when I was on the floor. I didn’t look at it. Then I got on the scooter [to take him to the medical centre] and I saw my wrist was hanging down. It was broken.

“But I kept thinking, ‘No it’s not.’ I got there. My wrist was broken. So I thought, ‘Let’s go and get operated and I can come back tomorrow.’ Well, they didn’t tell me that if I went under anaesthesia I couldn’t ride the next day. I never broke a bone so I didn’t know. No one fucking told me.

A vicious high-side out of Phillip Island’s penultimate turn during qualifying snapped Redding’s right wrist and forced him to miss a crucial race.

“I messaged them at six o’clock in the morning [saying] ‘Yo, I’m good. Let me race.’ ‘No, you can’t.’ The race was cut to ten laps. Fucking hell! I could hold my breath for ten laps, let alone [riding with] a stupid wrist that has a plate inside that isn’t going to move.

“That’s one race I watched in the hospital and I was furious. Fucking furious. The worst that could’ve happened, which was him [Espargaro] winning, happened.”

‘I was laid there, thinking, ‘Why? What have I done?’’

The Australian round was disastrous in terms of points. But also in terms of timing. Espargaro had taken the championship lead for the first time since March. And Redding faced a frantic rush against the clock to line up on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix, just five days away.

16 points down on his adversary, Redding could not afford to miss the year’s penultimate race. Maintaining silence on the condition of a broken right wrist in the intervening days, the then 20-year old defied normal recovery times by competing in FP1 at Motegi six days after his painful Australian fall.

Redding picks up the story: “Then the same in Japan. I managed to fight my way to let me race. I didn’t give it up. There was no way I was letting that championship go. No way. They didn’t want to let me race and I had to keep going for doctor checks. Fucking hell, I was top three in that session and you’re telling me I’m not fit to race in the whole session!

“So I managed to qualify 13th. There’s 36 riders on the grid. One rider crashes so 35 riders that are left one has to hit the bike. And who is it? That was the breaking point. I was laid there. I couldn’t breathe again, like one week before.

Just when Redding thought his bad luck was finished, Tito Rabat crashed in front of him exiting the second turn at Motegi.

“I thought, ‘Fucking hell!’ I was laid there expecting to get hit by a bike. I didn’t know I was fucking out. I thought, ‘I ain’t moving. Fuck it! Just fuck it!’ My elbow was sticking here, I thought I’d dislocated it. My back had half a basketball [of swelling] on it. I couldn’t dress myself. I couldn’t wipe my ass for one and a half weeks. My knee, I couldn’t walk.

"And I was laid there, thinking, ‘Why? What have I done?’ The medic picked me up, dropped me on the stretcher. I was just trying and now I’m laid here, again, in insane pain. When I was coming up to Tito’s bike, because Tito was falling into the bike. It was slow motion. I remember the doctor saying, ‘If you crash with this broken wrist your racing career is over.’ That repeated five times in my head as I was coming up to this bike.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do now? Fuck it! Let it go. Embrace it.’ I was in the hospital and I knew [it was over]. Then they wanted to interview me. It wasn’t over there.”

‘I was at my peak, doing my best at that moment.’

A charging Tito Rabat meant Redding’s second place in the championship was under threat at the final round. He had little other option but to grit his teeth one last time before the winter months would offer respite and a chance for those aches to heal.

“Then we went to Valencia and I could have dropped to third in the championship. I needed to get a point if Tito finished on the podium. Well, Tito was quite strong at the end of the season. In Valencia I had to do a full race distance around this place, all left-handers, with a broken wrist and a mashed up back.

“And my tooth fell out before the race. I had a broken tooth from before. I had to do my boots up with one hand so I was pulling the strap just before the race. Whoop! A tooth fell out. I pulled up to Pete and said, ‘Mate, I don’t know what I’ve done or who I’ve done it to, but it ain’t meant to happen.’

A battered and bruised Redding congratulated eventual champion Pol Espargaro after gritting his teeth (at a cost!) at Valencia.

“I got in the points and finished 13th and that was it. I was second in the championship and I drowned my sorrows after that. I was over it. That was hard. I just wish I could’ve done something different. I did everything I could. I was at my peak, doing my best at that moment.

“And the team was great. Michael pushed me a lot, even to things I didn’t want to do. He knew I could do it. Now I need to get it right and try again. I can still get a world title but it needs to be Superbike. It ain’t going to be here. If I can’t do that then then, well, fuck knows. Maybe I’ll go boxing instead.”

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