The highs of his Czech GP win had only just sunk in by the time Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) arrived for media duties at the Red Bull Ring on Thursday, with all eyes fixed on the South African ahead of the team’s home race.
Until Sunday though, Binder had a subdued weekend at the myWorld Austrian Grand Prix. KTM’s first-ever premier class winner qualified 17th on Saturday as the lowest KTM as Binder struggled with corner exit throughout the weekend, thus seeing him way down the times in Free Practice and qualifying. But Sunday afternoon was a different kettle of fish.
The 33 managed to attach himself onto the back of the lead group of 12 riders in the opening stages of the race before the red flag incident unfolded. After the restart, Binder kept his cool as riders ahead of him crashed out – including current teammate Pol Espargaro and 2021 teammate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) – and he soon found himself up to P4, just over two seconds adrift of the leading trio.
Binder resisted a late onslaught from Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) to claim fourth at the team’s home race. A result that places Binder fourth in the World Championship, just seven points adrift of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), 15 back from race winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and 26 away from Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). There’s no two ways about it – the rookie is right in the Championship mix, and he’s only going to get stronger.
“If you told me I’d finish top four yesterday then I wouldn’t have expected it for sure,” began Binder, speaking to motogp.com after the race. “Really rally difficult race. Unbelievable, so much going on and then with the restart everything got mixed up again. It was a little bit of a crazy race to say that least.
“To finish fourth was amazing. Starting 17th our expectations were almost nothing so, to finish up in the top five was great and I learnt a lot in the race. I had the opportunity to go behind some of the fast guys and I know now that I can try make these improvements next week and what I need to work ok. Hopefully we can make a good step forward for next week.”
Binder confirmed where his weaknesses lie, but as he previously stated, the data is now there so he can rectify that at the Styrian GP.
“Just mainly corner exits and keeping the speed, and keep the wheelie down. If I can fix this we’ll be a lot more competitive because I was losing a lot on the exit in the race. But it’s a lot down to the riding style, I haven’t quite got it all under control yet.”
Binder then offers his thoughts on the monumental crash between fellow Czech GP podium finishers Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT).
“It was really scary to say the least. I saw it all happen right in front of me. I don’t know exactly what happened between Zarco and Morbidelli but I just them really far to the right of the track. And one second I just saw bikes flying. I tried to brake as hard as I could just in case someone slid in front or a bike stopped in front of us or something… and ooft. I saw the bike sliding straight towards the corner as Viñales and Rossi were turning in. And I think Valentino is the luckiest guy in the world today.”
Binder, a true title contender? You’d have to say so.