Brad Binder: Cheating Death and Making MotoGP History



CNN

Brad Binder had a front row seat to one of the scariest crashes motorsport has ever seen at this weekend’s Austrian MotoGP.

The South African was right behind Johann Zarco’s Ducati when he collided with Franco Morbidelli’s Yamaha and the riders were racing at full speed. Zarco and Morbidelli were sent flying, as their bikes continued, becoming potentially lethal projectiles.

That the two bikes did not collide with Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales was as miraculous as it was extraordinary. Rossi later admitted that the “motorcyclist saint” must have been watching over him and his teammate.

“I think the luckiest man in the world right now is Valentino Rossi,” Binder told CNN Sport. The 25-year-old KTM rider shudders to think what could have happened.

“Honestly, I’d rather not even think about it,” he admits. “You know bikes are probably still going over 200km/h, and a 185kg bike flying at close to 200km/h, if that gets to somebody, I think we all know how that can end.”

Amazingly, both Zarco and Morbidelli were able to walk away from the incident, although the Ducati rider has since told L’Equipe that he will undergo surgery for a broken wrist later this season week

Binder says the risks of racing are always there.

“It’s a danger that everybody knows, that we really try to keep in the back of our minds and not think about. Unfortunately, the only way to do this job is to approach things that way. If you’re concerned about the risks and the things that can happen, I don’t think you could ever do this job for a living.”

Maverick Vinales narrowly misses the flying bike.

TO READ: Maverick Vinales – Top Gun by name, top rider by nature

Binder finished fourth after the red flag race finally restarted, an impressive feat from 17th on the grid. It was the end of a roller-coaster week for the man born in Potchefstroom, in South Africa’s North West Province.

Just seven days earlier, Binder became the first South African to win a premier class race, at the Czech Republic GP in Brno, in just his third Moto GP.

The win was also KTM’s first ever MotoGP victory, and Binder became the first rookie to win a race since Marc Marquez’s first win at the GP of the Americas in 2013.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” he says. “I don’t think we expected it so soon, especially in my third Grand Prix. It was honestly a dream come true, something you work to get right your whole career as a motorcycle racer.”

Brad Binder says he doesn't like to think how much damage the crash could have caused.

TO READ: The power behind Marquez’s MotoGP throne

Binder and his family moved to Krugersdorp, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, when he was 10 years old. He admits that motoring is not something typically associated with South Africa.

“Of course when you think of sport and South Africa you think of rugby and cricket or something like that,” he said.

“When I was younger and I started racing in South Africa it was a lot busier, there were a lot of races and a lot of support, but things died down a bit, but it’s slowly coming back.”

The debutant’s success has been well received at home.

“It’s great, because the news really broke at home,” he says. “I have to say South Africans are always great at supporting anyone in sports, and especially their own, so it’s been great to see all the support I’ve had.”

Binder says he enjoys the support from his native South Africa.

TO READ: Will 2020 be Rossi’s last season in MotoGP?

Covid-19 has presented an additional challenge for Binder and his younger brother Darryn, who competes in the Moto3 class.

“It’s very difficult at the moment with South Africa’s borders closed,” explains Binder.

“It is almost impossible for us to return home. After this weekend’s race we have two weeks off and it would have been great to have shot home and found friends and family for a week and come back. But unfortunately, the way things are at the moment, we’re going to stay here.”

He admits to feeling a little homesick.

“South Africa in general is an amazing place, no doubt about it. The biggest thing about South Africa, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just home, you know? It’s this place where I go and I know exactly how everything works.

“It’s amazing to go back and go to the places I grew up and see all your friends and stuff, the stuff I’ve been doing my whole life. It’s all that stuff. I hope everything gets back to normal soon.”

Life on the road, however, is nothing new to the Binder brothers.

“We’ve both spent most of our time in Europe and have been together since 2014,” she says.

The elder Binder has raced in Europe since 2011, won the Moto3 title in 2016 and finished close to Alex Márquez in last season’s Moto2 championship.

When not competing, he is often found honing his skills in Spain.

“The best thing about Spain is that there are many different tracks and it’s very good for training,” he added.

“The weather is also good. Spain is always a place I try to go back to if I can’t go home.”

Johann Zarco checks Franco Morbidelli after the accident.

TO READ: Marc and Alex Márquez joined MotoGP

Despite his nine years of racing experience, Binder admits the move to MotoGP was daunting.

“A MotoGP bike is a completely different beast to a Moto2 bike, you have more than twice the horsepower and the bike is even lighter, so it’s very difficult to get to the start. Every time I get on the bike I feel more and more comfortable,” he said.

This year’s KTM looks to be a formidable package and a serious challenge to the other factory teams. The arrival of Marc Marquez’s former Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa as a test rider is widely credited with turning the team into contenders.

“I actually rode the 2019 bike late last year,” says Binder. “When I got on the 2020 bike in Malaysia you could feel it was a big step forward, much, much better and much easier to ride too. KTM has been working smoothly, Dani has been working amazingly as well.”

Ominously for the rest of the field, Binder sees this upward trajectory continuing.

“It’s amazing to see these big steps forward and, in general, I think there will be more,” he added.

The scary moment bikes flew across the track.

For now, the exiled Binder is focused on building on his first success in this strangest season of MotoGP.

A visit back home would certainly be welcome, but he admits he keeps a bit of South Africa with him.

“I try to keep some biltong to myself, but it’s not always easy to find!”

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