Early signs are that in the years to come, South African Brad Binder could be a real-world championship title contender in motorcycle sport.
South African phenomenon Brad Binder has been excelling in his first season in MotoGP, stunning the sport with victory in the Czech Republic in just his third-ever race in the class as talk of a new global superstar reverberates around the sport.
MotoGP is the motorbike equivalent of Formula 1 and Binder is the first South African to compete in the class since Jon Ekerold in 1983, and the first-ever to claim victory in a race to firmly announce his arrival as a new hero on the bike.
Binder, 25, is racing for the Austrian Red Bull KTM team and early signs are that in the years to come, he could be a real-world championship title contender, with skill, speed, and zero fear on the track. His victory in the Czech Republic came after a steep learning curve in a truncated 2020 season that only started in July and will see 15 race weekends, with a number of others canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The first race I made a mistake and went off track, and managed to fight myself back up to 13th position, which was really disappointing because I had the same pace as the guys in the top three,” Binder tells FORBES AFRICA.
“They put an absolutely insane motorbike underneath me.”
“It could have been a good day for me, but unfortunately with the mistake, it was tough. The second race weekend in Jerez [Spain], I thought we made some positive steps forward. The qualifying pace was better and I was feeling better in general.
“Unfortunately in turn one I had a good run off the line, but when I turned I didn’t see the Ducati on my inside and ended up taking out [teammate] Miguel Oliveira, so that was not good.
“And then after that I ran off on the gravel as I was trying to fight my way back. I got past four guys, but I lost it in the front.”
Binder has taken those lessons on board though and that shows his race intelligence, culminating in his maiden race win at the Brno Circuit.
“It is a day I have dreamed of since I was a little boy and now it has come true,” Binder said of his maiden win. I can’t thank my team enough, they put an absolutely insane motorbike underneath me. I had no idea we had a chance of winning, but I thought it would be good. I hope this is the start of many more.”
Binder started racing globally in the 125cc category as a 15-year-old in 2011, and had spent the last three seasons in Moto2, winning five of the 19 races last year before earning his spot in MotoGP.
He finished second in the riders’ championship in Moto2 last year, having won the Moto3 championship in 2016.
“It is an honor to be the first South African in a while to be in the MotoGP class,” he said. “It has always been a dream to get here and now that I am, I want to get as close to the front as possible and I want to be winning races.
“The goal was always to get to MotoGP, but the end goal now is always to win. That is my plan, and that is what I am striving for and working for every single day.
“I am looking forward to this whole situation I am in right now, where I have to chip my way through the order and it’s going to be a great challenge.”
Binder has received rave reviews from opponents, who have picked up his fearlessness for the fight and ability to push his bike to the limit.
Frenchman Fabio Quartararo and legendary former Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo are two that have spoken highly of Binder.
“Lorenzo has always been someone I have really enjoyed watching ride and to hear him say good things about me is really great, so let’s hope we can have some positive results and keep things on a roll.”
What is clear is that the South African has a bright future in this class, and is with a team that values his ability. He is also on a bike that has the potential to win him many more MotoGPs.
“It has gone much better than I could have expected, the bike is feeling fantastic, I am feeling super comfortable on the bike and the team is working well,” he said.
“Our bike has made an incredible step forward, it is fantastic to see how this whole package has come together just in time.
“I feel that since I joined KTM, this new bike they have brought has been a whole lot more competitive and we have seen it [in results].
“It is all really positive and just to be able to fight among these top guys is an incredible feeling, especially as a rookie. I need to keep the same work ethic and hopefully, in time we can turn it into solid results.”
-By Nick Said