Binder counting down the seconds after Qatar

Red Bull KTM Brad Binder had to ward off the interest of Jorge Martin to finish second in Qatar on Sunday. | AFP

Red Bull KTM Brad Binder had to ward off the interest of Jorge Martin to finish second in Qatar on Sunday. | AFP

Published Mar 12, 2024


Morgan Bolton

Brad Binder will probably be the first to admit the Losail Circuit in Qatar is not one of Red Bull KTM’s strongest venues, so to claim an impressive second-place finish in the Persian Gulf nation will no doubt fill the 28-year-old and his team with a great sense of accomplishment, while instilling belief going forward.

Binder finished 1.328s behind the largely untroubled race winner Francesco Bagnaia in Qatar. At times he did manage to whittle down that lead below one second but a protracted battle for second during the middle-stages of the race against Jorge Martin, Marc Marques and Enea Bastianini arguably helped Bagnaia tighten his hold over proceedings.

— Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (@KTM_Racing) March 10, 2024

That in itself is telling, as Binder and Co. would have most likely lost the place last season if such a gaggle of Ducatis found themselves on his rear-wheel, especially as tyre management and loss of grip played a major role in their battles in 2023.

Binder and Martin traded blows during this period, too, switching position on several occasions as they jostled for second-best behind the defending world champion. It was also during this skirmish, that it became clear that this season’s iteration of the RC16 is a tracer bullet on the straights. The fact that Binder showed so much confidence in his ride when braking late, also speaks volumes regarding its continued development.

A second-place finish at Losail this past Sunday is, therefore, an excellent outcome at the season-opening race. In previous years, KTM’s best finish there was last season’s fifth. Before that, they had failed to even break into the top 10 of the GP hosted there.

Indeed, it was the type of performance – further encouraged by a second-place finish in the sprint a day earlier - that insists that a coveted victory is not far off for the team. It is an assessment of events that Binder did admit to.

“Super-happy to be leaving with second place again,” he said afterwards.

“I thought I might have had a bit to catch up and take the lead but every time I got a little closer (to Bagnaia), the gap stretched again. Anyway, we are happy to start the season this way.

“I think winning again is only a matter of time. My bike was next level again, even after the improvements we had made for yesterday, so my team did an immense job.”

Red Bull KTM Brad Binder had to ward off the interest of Jorge Martin to finish second in Qatar on Sunday. | AFP

The only blemish for KTM would have been the last-place finish of Binder’s teammate, Jack Miller, whose front-end gave up on him at Turn 1 of the second lap, resulting in an unfortunate crash.

Nevertheless, KTM race manager Francesco Guidotti was positively beaming, saying afterwards: “A great race by Brad.

“He was outstanding out there. This isn’t one of our best tracks - or hasn’t been - so to be second twice gives us a lot of confidence for the future.

“Portugal is another round for us and another challenge but with Brad in this kind of form and Jack with potential, we can be optimistic.”

Since returning to the race calendar in 2020, the Algarve International Circuit in the south of Portugal has also not been the kindest of event for Binder. He has retired from the event twice in 2020 and 2022, with a best placed finished of fifth in-between.

Last year he came in sixth behind five Ducatis and an Aprilia but that narrative will surely be challenge in a fortnight’s time.

Brad Binder secured a brilliant second at the season-opening Qatar MotoGP on Sunday. | AFP