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One is a race winner, the other is a two-time podium finisher. 2020 has been a stellar campaign for both Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and heading into the final four races of the season, the fight for Rookie of the Year is on.
In a season jammed full of unforgettable moments, Binder’s Czech Grand Prix victory is up there with the best of them. Winning just your third MotoGP™ race is something quite special. Winning your third MotoGP™ race on a machine that hasn’t registered a premier class win takes it up a notch on the impressive scale. Binder set the world alight in Brno to become just the fourth rider in the MotoGP™ era to win in a rookie campaign, the others? Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa – decent company.
South Africa and KTM’s first MotoGP™ winner may not have stood on the rostrum since, but that can be forgiven in such an unpredictable and competitive year. KTM are still improving their already vastly quicker RC16, it’s easy to forget that the Austrian factory are in just their fourth year of MotoGP™ competition. Binder’s win was simply astonishing and despite not challenging for another win since, take nothing away from his opening premier class campaign. Top KTM rider in Aragon proves once more the number 33 is continuing to adapt to MotoGP™ like a duck to water and when the RC16 is hooked up at more circuits, he’s a podium contender – and more – every week.
However, Binder now has a rival for the Rookie of the Year crown. The rise of Alex Marquez, first in Le Mans and now in Aragon, has been staggering. But people shouldn’t be surprised: the younger Marquez brother is a two-time World Champion, another thing that many quickly forget. Going under the radar for most of the season, Marquez has gone about his work quietly and intelligently, finishing every race – all but two of them inside the points.
Top 10s at the Andalucia and Emilia Romagna GPs were a sure sign the number 73 was getting to grips with a tricky but quick RC213V, and getting straight into Q2 at MotorLand Aragon was a warning to his competitors. Marquez’ weakness in 2020 has been his pace on brand-new soft Michelin rubber, his strength has been his race pace. P2 in FP4 was another warning shot that Marquez had his Repsol Honda hooked up in Aragon, but showing pace in FP4 and producing the goods on a Sunday afternoon are two completely separate things.
Following fellow Row 4 starter and eventual race winner Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) through the pack, Marquez made easy pickings of Championship front runners and more experienced riders to finish just 0.2 seconds from victory. His wet race rostrum in Le Mans was probably ride of the season so far, some would rightly make a case for his Aragon P2 being just as impressive – if not more so.
Both Binder and Marquez have been revelations in 2020. The duo starred in Moto3™ and Moto2™, now they’re making a name for themselves on one of the biggest sporting stages. 67 points apiece, four races to go. Who are you backing for 2020 Rookie of the Year?
Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) shouldn’t go without a mention either. After a difficult start to 2020 with three consecutive DNFs, the youngest rider on the premier class grid responded incredibly, silencing the critics with two top 10s at the Red Bull Ring. A penultimate lap crash at the Emilia Romagna GP cost Lecuona a P6 finish, but Lecuona has responded with three points finishes on the trot. With a magnificent factory in KTM and a Herve Poncharal-led Tech3 team behind the 20-year-old, Lecuona’s future is bright.
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