'That's Brad Binder!' - dreams really do come true as SA teen rider Ora Phiri meets his MotoGP hero

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South African MotoGP champion Brad Binder surprising 14-year-old Ora Phiri.
South African MotoGP champion Brad Binder surprising 14-year-old Ora Phiri.
  • Checkers Sixty60 partnered with South African MotoGP champion Brad Binder for a very special campaign.
  • Brad surprised up-and-coming superbike rider Oratilwe Phiri with a visit, and the two racers shared a special moment on the track.
  • Phiri's story of success is one of hope and to keep on pushing to make your dreams come true.

Imagine being 14 years old, and not only are you filming an advertisement for Checkers' Sixty60, but you look over your shoulder while sitting on a racetrack, and a masked rider is approaching you. But it's not just some guy on a bike being escorted by the Checkers boys in turquoise - it's South Africa's MotoGP legend, Brad Binder.

Oratilwe Phiri is an up-and-coming superbike racer with a mammoth 62 podiums in his short career. Ora, as he is fondly called, has been riding bikes since he was just four years old. Following in the footsteps of his father, Thabiso, the teen has been crazy about bikes ever since watching his dad ride on the track.

Brad Binder being escorted on the RedStar Raceway
Brad Binder being escorted on the RedStar Raceway track in Delmas by the Checkers Sixty60 riders to meet 14-year-old Ora Phiri.

Thabiso said: "I would bring my family to the racetrack to watch me ride, and when a child is passionate about something, you just know to follow through with it. He was about two or three years old and just crazy about bikes. We then got him a little pocket bike, he started riding when he was four, and it just took off from there."

After Thabiso had bought Ora a pocket bike, he realised the absence of other black children involved in motorcycles. He then bought 10 more pocket bikes and eventually started his own riding academy to train more children and make it more accessible for them.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're a remarkable actor, a teacher, a nurse, an athlete, or even your mother or father. Sometimes it's even your own child. We all have dreams and aspirations, and allowing dreams to come true in a young person's life can only push them to reach even higher for the stars.

Ora says he was only five when he began following Binder's career and looking up to him as a hero.

South African MotoGP champion is looking forward t
South African MotoGP champion is looking forward to give his best in the 2023 season.

Binder, 27, is one of only three South Africans ever to hold the motorcycle grand prix world champion title. The 2016 Moto3 World Champion also started out in this sport very young. Brad took to the track in karts and claimed the title of national champion at the age of eight. At 10, he moved on to two wheels, and the rest is history. He is currently in his ninth season with the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team and is recognised as one of the most determined and efficient racers on the MotoGP grid. 

This video will give anyone goosebumps. It's not just the moment when Ora realises it's Binder driving towards him, but the absolute love, sacrifice and determination this family has to pursue their children's dreams. Ora also has a nine-year-old brother, Amohelang, who is also a rider.

Binder resonates with the Phiri family because he also has parents who would go to the ends of the earth for him and his brother, Darren, to succeed in their biking careers.

MotoGP rider Brad Binder with up-and-coming SA tee
MotoGP rider Brad Binder with up-and-coming SA teen Ora Phiri.

Thabiso says they did everything they could when they saw Ora's passion.

"It's pretty much like the Lewis Hamilton story - everything is possible."

Obviously, the Phiri family are massive Hamilton fans and are inspired by his Formula One success story.

When Binder heard about Ora's dream, he was all fired up to pay it forward to this young aspiring superbike racer.

"Ora had no idea I was there, and it was incredibly humbling to witness his surprise. I look forward to seeing this young man make his name locally and globally in years to come," Binder said.

The teen seems all calm and collected at the sight and realisation that Brad Binder is standing before him in the video. When asked what was going through his mind, he exclaimed: "When? When was this all planned? I was just so surprised."

Phiri seems to know it's Binder before the MotoGP champ even removes his helmet.

"I knew it was Brad because I know his bike and his style on the bike. Just like I know Marc Marquez and Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia."

The best part wasn't just about meeting Binder for Ora. "I didn't just get to meet him one-on-one, but I got to ride on the track with my Yamaha 300, with Brad Binder and his bike! And the best part was I won the bet against him. I got R100 for beating him off the start line!

"It was just so much fun, but I also got to see for myself just how really good Brad is at riding on track."

Thabiso says he is Ora's mentor, mechanic and, mainly, his sponsor.

"The South African economic climate is not very friendly for athletes looking for sponsors. And motorsport isn't exactly the kind of sports sponsors are willing to invest in. It's just not soccer or rugby, so it isn't easy. But it also means hard work. If the passion is there, you, as parents, and the child needs to push and find a way to make things work.

SA teen Ora Phiri didn't just get to meet his hero
SA teen Ora Phiri didn't just get to meet his hero Brad Binder, he got to drive with the MotoGP star on track.

"We know another young rider who is really good but struggling with financial backing. He and his family are working hard with fundraisers in his neighbourhood," he says.

For other youngsters wanting to get into bike racing, the Phiri family advises to start as young as possible on a pocket bike - pricing starts from about R3 500 - and get them comfortable and going at their own pace. Then, just take it from there and put yourselves out there as much as possible.

Neil Schreuder, the chief strategy and innovation officer for the Shoprite Group, says Checkers Sixty60 partnered with South Africa's fastest man on two wheels.

South African MotoGP rider Brad Binder with 14-yea
South African MotoGP rider Brad Binder with 14-year-old superbike rider Ora Phiri.

"Sixty60 delivers groceries to tens of thousands of customers every day. For Ora, we wanted to deliver a moment of magic. His story and his keen ambition certainly resonate with our business, as we, too, strive for standout performance," said Schreuder. 

After riding with Binder on the track, Ora is more determined than ever to follow in his footsteps.

So, what's next for the young superbike rider? 

Ora says: "I want to ride and race overseas. And I want to be a South African MotoGP rider and win championships, just like Brad Binder."

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