Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) said it himself in Parc Ferme at the Sachsenring after qualifying on the front row: "I'll try to keep my position, but with Jack next to me I know it'll be impossible". Both Brad Binder and Jack Miller have been electric from lights out aboard their Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machines in 2023 so far, giving them a huge advantage when it comes to fighting at the front.
Six of the 16 starts have seen a KTM take the holeshot (plus two more if you count the two red flags in Jerez), but, to go further than that, every time an orange bike has qualified on the front two rows of the grid, they've found themselves in the top three by the first sector. But has the Austrian marque improved their starts or in fact just improved their qualifying performances?
It was their Achilles' heel in 2022 as KTM failed to regularly make it into Q2 and, as a consequence, left themselves with a mountain to climb on Sunday. A factory KTM machine featured in Q2 on only 6 occasions in the opening eight rounds of last year, compare that to 13 out of a possible 16 appearances in 2023. Binder and Miller's efforts have seen KTM's Q2 appearance rate jump from 37.5% to over 80%.
Miller has been able to translate his Ducati one-lap pace over to the KTM by out-qualifying his new teammate on six out of eight occasions so far this season. The Australian's average grid position is a pretty impressive seventh, compared to Binder, whose average qualifying position has been tenth. It's a clear area that the South African needs to improve if he's to take the fight to Ducatis in the World Championship fight. He's yet to take a front row in 2023; in fact, he's only ever qualified on the front row once in his 60 premier class appearances.
However, making the start is only a small part of the task. You then have to stay there. And, so far, that's largely what they've managed to do. Binder currently has two Sprint victories to his name, plus another two podium visits, despite his qualifying struggles. Whilst Miller has bagged three podiums in his first 16 starts for the factory.
Both Binder and Miller have had greater success over the shorter format, with Binder sat third and Miller sixth in the title standings when you only count points won in the Sprint,. Compare that to sixth for the South African and ninth for the Australian when counting Grand Prix points, and it's another obvious area the Austrian factory will be looking to improve on throughout the second half of the season.
But the Championship standings don't lie: KTM are Ducati's closest competitor. Binder might be 80 points adrift of Bagnaia in fourth at this current moment, but a top three finish in MotoGP for the first time in his career is well within reach. As is a record finish in the Constructors' Championship, with the orange brand currently sat in second.