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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Binder Takes Maiden MotoGP™ Win to Make History in Brno

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The first win for KTM in the premier class, the first for South Africa and the first for a rookie since 2013, Brad Binder’s scintillating Czech GP ride to victory puts him – and KTM – in the history books.

Sometimes things come together so perfectly, they can appear easy to the casual observer – like a five second gap at the front in only your third MotoGP™ race.

That reads like an easy ride for Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as he made history in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky, and he certainly dominated a field of experience to make it look so.

But the blood, sweat and tears that go into winning, and making history, are often not caught on camera.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

For Binder, the path to MotoGP™ victory and the first South African win in the premier class is one that starts in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, ascending via the 2016 Moto3™ crown with Red Bull KTM Ajo and a trophy cabinet full of lightweight and intermediate class silverware.

For KTM, the journey began full time competition in 2017 as the Austrian factory took on the premier class armed with a mission, a philosophy, and an incredible record of sporting achievement.

In their fourth season, a vital first part of that mission is accomplished, their philosophy remains unwavering and victory is a reality.

Behind the rookie and factory taking victory for the first time in Brno, there were two more firsts after the awesome race day shake up at the Czech adrenaline factory too.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) took second and his first podium in the premier class, with Johann Zarco back on the box in third to give Esponsorama Racing their first MotoGP™ podium… via a spectacularly precise, pitch perfect and full gas Long Lap Penalty.

Morbidelli was the man fastest out the blocks as the lights went out, picking teammate Fabio Quartararo’s pocket round Turn 1 and bolting into the distance almost immediately as Zarco lost out from pole.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also managed to get past the number 5 as he launched from fourth into the top three, before he even struck for second and dispatched Quartararo.

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo of Pol Espargaro and Binder made great starts to slot into fourth and fifth too, leaving Zarco initially down in P6.

Binder was then a man on a mission.

The South African cut past teammate Espargaro and then Aleix Espargaro, soon stuck to the rear wheel of Quartararo as Zarco followed suit to strike back against former teammate Pol Espargaro… but that would soon to serve up some drama.

Before that though, the number 44 made it through on Lap 6 and immediately set sights on his teammate and Quartararo as the battle for second became a double factory KTM vs Quartararo fight.

On Lap 9, Binder was through on El Diablo, striking at Turn 3 – a little wide but more than making it stick – and Pol Espargaro was next through.

He then also headed wide at Turn 13 and lost the place, but drama was about to unfold at Turn 1 next time around: the KTM of Espargaro was a little wide and the Ducati of Zarco kept it pinned on the inside, leaving both heading for the same piece of tarmac.

As the KTM swept back to get the run up through Turn 2, the two made contact and Espargaro was skittled off – earning Zarco a Long Lap Penalty for the incident.

Despite the heartbreak for one orange bike, there was plenty still to celebrate a little ahead on track.

Honing in on Morbidelli and the race lead, Binder wasn’t showing any signs of slowing up, reeling in the Yamaha at speed and soon within striking distance.

With nine laps left in Brno, the rookie sensation struck and Binder was in the lead of a MotoGP™ race for the first time.

Could he now stay steadfast under pressure?

It appeared he more than could, with the KTM immediately starting to bolt into clear air at the front.

On the same lap, Zarco took his Long Lap Penalty and despite preconceptions, that was a show in itself and one of the most spectacular moments of the race.

Inch perfect, rear tyre smoking and absolutely pinned on the right side of the line, the number 5 saw his gap back to Quartararo in fourth evaporate but screamed out of the Long Lap area just ahead of his compatriot, holding third and keeping that first podium with Ducati still very much in sight.

Meanwhile Binder raced on, Morbidelli held firm, and the battle at the front became one of nerves.

The fight just behind the top two was starting to heat up though, and with Zarco staying ahead of Quartararo it seemed like solid damage limitation for the Championship leader if he held fourth.

The double Jerez winner was struggling, however.

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) were all starting to hunt him down, with the Suzuki striking first with five laps to go.

Nine-time World Champion Rossi soon followed suit on the same lap, and Quartararo quickly found himself lingering down in sixth.

With four laps to go, the number 20 also fell victim to Oliveira’s charge and the focus shifted back to Zarco… who now had Alex Rins for very close company.

Binder – barring a mistake – was a few kilometres from making some very big dreams a very big reality, and Morbidelli looked secure to hit his own milestone too.

But Rins was hot on the heels of the Ducati in third and the gap was just 0.6 between the GP19 and GSX-RR with a couple of laps to go; soon down to nothing as Zarco stared down a momentous final lap.

First to complete that would be Binder, however.

The South African made the graft and grind look easy, over four seconds clear after more than four years of tireless work from the Austrian factory to see the RC-16 come home first and Binder etch his name into premier class and KTM folklore.

Childhood dreams realised across the board, Morbidelli continued the trend as he brought his Yamaha home second to secure a fantastic maiden MotoGP™ podium, and he moves into P3 in the overall standings.

In the duel for third, Rins was looking menacing on the final lap but Zarco was holding firm, keeping the the Suzuki man at bay.

The Frenchman closed the door and did so brilliantly to secure his first MotoGP™ podium since the 2018 Malaysian GP, making it a huge day for the Avintia team too, who achieve their first MotoGP™ podium to add to pole position gained on Saturday.

Fourth place for Rins remains remarkable, however, with the number 42 taking some valuable points after suffering a dislocation-fracture to the shoulder at the Spanish GP.

Close to the Suzuki man was Rossi, who climbed to P5 from a P10 starting place in another great ride for ‘The Doctor’.

Oliveira finished P6 to cement his best premier class finish, having started 13th, but Quartararo won’t be too pleased to have finished 11 seconds from the win in P7.

Nevertheless, those are valuable points in the title race as key rivals remained behind the Frenchman on race day.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) finished one second adrift of Quartararo, in P8, and two seconds up the road from Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) after the Australian recovered from a tough start to pip Aleix Espargaro to P9 on the last lap.

Miller ended the day just over a second up the road from Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), but the pair did salvage P9 and P11 from P14 and P18 starting positions.

Aleix Espargaro’s P10 was his first finish of 2020, important for the Spaniard and team, and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) finished 12th but on the way into a historically good track for Ducati…

LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow finished 13th as he continues to battle a left scaphoid injury, and nine tenths behind him, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) takes just two points home in P14, losing valuable ground in the Championship and now 17 adrift of Quartararo.

Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took 15th to continue his record of scoring at least a point in his first three MotoGP™ races.

In other key stories, Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) lost the front and collected Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in the early stages as the duo crashed out of contention.

That’s it from Brno and a truly history-making race.

For Binder, for KTM, for South Africa, and for MotoGP™.

The last time a rookie won a race, it was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).

Before that, it was Jorge Lorenzo, and before that, Dani Pedrosa – legends both.

Pedrosa is also a man who shares some of the pay off after KTM’s stunning first win, now in the role of test rider with the factory.

What can Binder go on to achieve now?

It couldn’t really have been written better, as the tidal wave of glory now carries the paddock south to Styria and the stunning Red Bull Ring, home race for the newest winners on the block.

MotoGP™ podium

1 Brad Binder – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM – 41:38.764

2 Franco Morbidelli – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – +5.266

3 Johann Zarco – Esponsorama Racing – Ducati – +6.470

Brad Binder:

“It hasn’t sunk it yet.

“Today was the most incredible day of my life so far, it’s a day I’ve dreamed of since I was a child, and for it to come true in my third Grand Prix is scary.

“I honestly can’t believe it.

“From the day starting in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup it’s been a consistent grind trying to get here.

“You know I came through all the classes with Red Bull KTM, and here we are on top.

“We’ve finally won in MotoGP.”

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