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Brad Binder still on MotoGP title hunt, despite ‘crazy year’ so far

Brad Binder still on MotoGP title hunt, despite ‘crazy year’ so far
epa10554328 South African Brad Binder of Red Bull KMT Factory in action during the Sprint race in the MotoGP for the Motorcycling Grand Prix of Argentina in Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina, 01 April 2023. EPA-EFE/JUAN IGNACIO RONCORONI

Three races into the 2023 MotoGP season, South Africa’s Brad Binder remains confident that it is his year to seal championship glory.

With three races under his belt, Brad Binder’s season is well and truly underway. The Red Bull KTM rider has had a mixed bag of results so far in 2023 with a few costly mistakes alongside some golden rides, yet the South African believes his championship fight is on the right track.

Binder started off in Portugal, picking up some valuable points with a drive that saw him take sixth position, despite qualifying 15th with neck and shoulder problems.

In Argentina, Binder took his first victory of the season, winning the sprint race, but his luck would not hold, come the GP, after a touch with Maverick Vinales saw him crashing and limping home in 17th. At the most recent race at the Grand Prix of The Americas, Binder crashed out and only finished 13th.

“We’ve had some ups and some downs. To get a win in Argentina was fantastic. Unfortunately, getting wiped out the next day didn’t help much. And then crashing in America wasn’t great at all,” Binder told Daily Maverick.

“It’s been a tough start to the year which has been frustrating because we’ve made a huge step forward and the motorbike has been working really well, so I feel like we have the opportunity to really get good results.”

South African Brad Binder of Red Bull KMT Factory celebrates after winning the sprint race in the MotoGP in Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina, on 1 April 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/JUAN IGNACIO RONCORONI)

Ninth in championship standings

As it stands, the rider goes into the next race in Spain ninth in the championship standings, but this is already an improvement from the team’s position in February when pre-season testing began.

“We definitely struggled a lot more than we had planned, but each weekend we’ve made small steps forward and all these small changes that we had made have really made a big difference. We’ve changed four or five small areas of the bike which have given us so much more speed over the lap – for example, in America, we were more than a second and a half quicker than we were the previous season,” he said.

“The speed is there, the steps we’ve made are there, we just need to put everything together and finish off the job.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Binder’s one-lap speed improvement augurs well for 2022

Out of the garage and out on track, Binder also knows where he and the team need to push for improvement to better the results each weekend.

“Qualifying has never been our strong point, neither mine nor KTM’s unfortunately, but at the moment, I honestly believe that our package is much more suited to that one lap pace,” he acknowledged.

“And okay, in Portimão, I didn’t have the opportunity to do anything because I could barely move on the bike. We had a wet qualifying in Argentina, which I missed going through to the Q2 by o.1s, which was a disaster, because I really believed we could have had a good start there. 

“In America, I didn’t finish one lap in qualifying, so I haven’t given myself the best opportunity to line up at the front.”

Noting that, Binder says he has his eye on proving what he and the bike can do throughout the weekend, in order to give him the best shot come race day.

“I know what we need to change and I’m confident in what I can change going forward, so I think qualifying is going to be a problem of the past soon. And if we can do it, it will make my life a hell of a lot easier, come the races on Saturday and Sunday.”

MotoGP rider Brad Binder in action during the third day of MotoGP pre-season test sessions in Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 12 February 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/FAZRY ISMAIL)

Eyes on championship

Troubles aside, Binder’s sprint race win in Argentina is a hopeful sign for the rider. It is just the beginning, and consistent results throughout the next 18 race weekends will be vital in his goal of grabbing that revered championship title.

“I know we can be fighting amongst that top five and that’s really where I want to be, week in, week out. With the way the season started, it looks like if you can score points every weekend, the championship is going to look really good at the end of the year,” he said.

“Every single rider has had a DNF already – it’s been a crazy year… Every session counts. I think it’s going to be a really, really exciting season for everybody to watch.” DM

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