The Gran Premio Red Bull de España and Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucia saw Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) compete in their first two MotoGP™ races, with Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) completing his second and third premier class race weekends after making his debut in Valencia 2019. But how did they get on?
Brad Binder: 13th and DNF
The results from the opening two races really don’t reflect the South African’s performance in Jerez. Binder was one of the stars of the show at both weekends, and it became apparent that he was on song on Friday at the Spanish GP. Finishing P10 in FP1 was a promising start, but then he went and finished third behind Petronas Yamaha SRT duo Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo in his second official MotoGP™ session in the soaring temperatures.
Qualifying P13, Binder made a swift getaway on Sunday and was behind teammate Pol Espargaro before running off at Turn 5 after losing the front of his RC16 on entry. Binder re-joined though and showed podium pace on his way to 13th – a feeling of what could have been for Binder and KTM.
High off a promising debut, what would the Andalucia GP bring? Binder was able to get straight into Q2 after finishing 7th on the combined Free Practice times, eventually qualifying P9 – ahead of Pol Espargaro. Race day wouldn’t go Binder’s way though as he and future teammate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) tangled as the field piled into Turn 1. The number 33 ran into the gravel and would again show podium race pace, but Binder crashed at Turn 13 on Lap 12 – a vicious highside thank, thankfully, Binder walked away from.
“Today definitely did not go to plan and the worst thing was that I destroyed the race for Miguel,” said Binder on Sunday post-race. “He’d had a great weekend up until then and I’m sure he would have had a strong race. Really sorry about that. I had a good start and I didn’t see Danilo on the inside and when I picked up it was already too late: I couldn’t avoid Miguel.
“When I saw the crash I was really worried so I’m glad he’s OK. After that my race was already difficult. I tried my best to track my way through the field. I kept working and pushing and coming into the last corner I tucked the front and I tried to pick it up but it gripped and highsided. Luckily I’m OK and we’ll try again next time.”
Alex Marquez: 12th and 8th
Pretty much all the talk about Honda surrounded Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Cal Crutchlow’s (LCR Honda Castrol) injury comebacks. Meanwhile, Alex Marquez went quietly about his business at the Spanish and Andalucia Grands Prix, and the reigning Moto2™ World Champion barely put a foot wrong. Two crashes over the two weekends is far from a disaster – especially as a rookie – and two race finishes in brutal conditions was exactly what Alex Marquez and HRC would have wanted.
12th in the opening race was a decent start and a very good dose of experience. A crash in Q1 at the Andalucia GP saw Marquez start from the back of the grid, but in the sweltering heat that saw more experienced riders crash out, Marquez brought his factory RC213V home in P8. He beat Johann Zarco (Hublot Reale Avintia) by four seconds and finished just two behind Pol Espargaro. And, to finish less than 20 seconds behind runaway race winner Quartararo in just your second race – eight less than it was the week before – is a very fine performance.
“Our rookie Alex Marquez has done a very good job,” said Team Manager Alberto Puig. “The objective was to finish the race and reduce the distance with the leader. Last week, this gap was 27 seconds, today instead it was only 19 seconds, this is almost eight seconds gained, it is a lot, especially given the conditions. He had a good pace, but he still needs to understand the bike on new tyres. From our technical and racing point of view we are very happy because he is learning and understanding each race. Not crashing helps you take more steps and be faster every time you get on the bike."
Iker Lecuona: DNF and DNF
Lecuona showed glimpses that he and the KTM can do good things in 2020. The Spaniard’s most notable performance was in FP1 at the Spanish GP where he claimed P9, while Lecuona also picked up P12 in the Andalucia GP FP1. Qualifying 21st and 17th gave work to do in both races if Lecuona wanted to scrap for the top 10, but in tough conditions, the 20-year-old crashed in both races. In the Andalucia GP, Lecuona was scrapping with fellow rookie Alex Marquez before crashing, and the Spaniard will be taking the positives to Brno.
“Last week, I was fighting with the temperatures,” said Lecuona, after the Andalucia race. “In the race today, I don’t know why, but the bike felt a bit different than before. I was fighting a lot with Alex Marquez. I made a mistake and tried to push again but finally I lost the front. I’m very sorry for my team. I know that they are pushing very hard all the time. We will try to improve in Brno.”
Conditions in Jerez were seriously ruthless and none of the rookies disgraced themselves in an ultra-competitive MotoGP™ field. Next stop: Brno!