BRILLIANT BRAD BINDER
CAR|November 2021
Brad Binder was absolutely spellbinding in the wet in Austria. We chat to him about his gutsy victory
Stuart Johnston

With two laps to go, South Africa’s Brad Binder found himself with no front brakes and absolutely no tyre grip in the 2021 Austrian MotoGP. A few laps earlier, the 26-year-old from Krugersdorp had fought his way to the tail end of the leading bunch of riders when heavy rain began to fall on the postcard-pretty Red Bull Ring circuit. Marc Marquez, Francesco Bagnaia, Fabio Quartararo, Jorge Martin, and Joan Mir dived for the pit lane to make the change-over to their spare “wet” motorcycles, standing ready with treaded rain tyres.

Binder, riding a KTM in front of a massive crowd of supporters cheering him on for the factory’s “home” Grand Prix, opted to go for broke and stayed out on the increasingly sodden circuit. At this stage. there were still four laps to go and he was in the lead but on a trip into the unknown. He had never ridden a racing motorcycle on slick tires in the rain. “The most difficult thing was to suss out how much grip was available; how far I could push before braking, how much edge grip there was on corners. Oddly enough it was quite okay on that first lap in the wet because I still had a lot of tyre temperature on my slicks. It was getting wetter all the time but I found I could still hook it all up and get down the straights quickly, if not in the corners.

“Then, with two laps to go, I had lost all tyre temperature, so no grip. Even worse, I had no front brakes anymore, which was a huge challenge. Our bikes use carbon front brake discs for racing in the dry and now it felt like I had ice cubes for brake pads. When I squeezed the front brake lever there was nothing, no brakes!

“I went down the gears and used the back brake to slow things down a bit but the trouble was, if you use the back brake and the engine braking too much, it locks up the rear wheel. My pit board showed that with two laps to go, I had a nine-second lead. Although I didn’t know whether that was nine seconds over a rider who had stayed out on slicks (there were only a few as brave as Brad) or over one of the guys on rain tyres because those guys on rain tyres would soon come steaming past.

“I went off the track four times on that final lap. As soon as I tried to lean the bike even the smallest amount, it would slide. I had to slow it right down to the point where I could go around the corners with the bike just about upright and then hook it up on the straights … and obviously tap off the throttle very, very early.”

In the end, Brad won by 12,9 seconds. He says if he had to do it all again, he doesn’tthink he would have finished. “I hope I don’t have to do that again. Serious stress levels, I’d say.”

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