JOHANNESBURG - Brad Binder went all in, played his chips and held his poker face as he battled wet conditions at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday to record his second MotoGP victory.
To say that he took a massive gamble, is arguably an understatement. To use a pop culture reference, and SPOILER ALERT! if you have not seen Avengers: Endgame - he survived the snap, tunnelled through impossible odds, came out on the other side and defeated the ‘Big Bad.’
The Red Bull KTM rider started 10th on the grid and steadily made his way to the leading pack. With three laps to go, the weather turning on the riders to create difficult and slippery conditions, Binder now in fifth place opted to stay out and brave the track while his fellow front-runners all dived into the pits to change tyres and bikes to the wet compound.
It proved to be a masterstroke.
Nonetheless, it was a nervy last few laps for the 26-year-old, his bike sliding, wobbling, tip-toeing on slick tyres around the Red Bull Ring, the man on the machine barely leaning into the corners as he negotiated the final handful of rotations around the racecourse.
Brilliant @BradBinder_41 walks on water to win in Austria! 🏆— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) August 15, 2021
Bravery rewarded as the South African holds off @PeccoBagnaia and @88jorgemartin after slick gamble! 🙌#AustrianGP 🇦🇹 pic.twitter.com/N0yaUhN04y
At any moment disaster threatened to end his afternoon, and yet Binder endured, carefully guiding his ride, running wide at times, the bike swerving underneath him, something akin to starting a horse.
He managed to claim victory by close to 10 seconds, but had there been another lap, one suspects that he would have been gobbled up by the riders, such as a charging Francesco Bagnaia, on the more secure wet-weather condition tyres.
“When I saw the guys pull up into the pit,” said Binder of those last laps, “I decided to take the gamble and try to push it out to the end.
“It was incredibly sketchy to try and get the bike home as the carbon brakes lose temperature which feels like you don’t have brakes anymore. I lost my brakes with two laps to go, and it went cold which meant there was no grip at all, but super happy to come home with the win, especially here in Austria which is Red Bull and KTM’s home ground Grand Prix – it is the closest thing that I have to home ground Grand Prix, so hats off to the team.”
It was his second GP victory, one that has been a long-time coming after the general consensus at the start of the racing season agreed that he would be one of the dark horses in the 2021 championship. Much like his first triumph in Brno in the Czech Republic last year, it might have been unexpected, but then Binder has endeared himself to the supporters with gritty performances and a never-say-die attitude.
"I am so incredibly happy to have walked away with the win today,” Binder said afterwards.
“The beginning of the race was super hard for us. I, unfortunately, got the worst tyre since I have been here. So, I was struggling a lot in all the braking zones and with the throttle but when I saw the rain starting, I took my opportunity and I fought as hard as I could and closed in front of the front group, which was great."
The victory propelled Binder into sixth spot in the riders’ championship on 98 points, 83 points behind leader Fabio Quartararo of France, and so far the season is proving to be a good one for KTM, despite a shaky start to the season. With teammate Miguel Oliveira – who retired on Sunday - in the mix, the team has secured two victories and a further two top podium finishes in 11 races.
Next up for Binder and Co is the British GP, and with much confidence extracted from this victory, who is to gamble and predict what Binder might do at Silverstone at the end of the month.
* Quotes courtesy of Flume Digital Marketing and PR