• Brad Binder had another tough weekend in Valencia, Spain.
• The South African rider qualified in tenth place, but finished in seventh.
• Binder made the most of a difficult race to register a good result.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
After two days of showers and mixed conditions the first of two races at the flat and curvy circuit in Valencia took place under late autumn sunshine and temperatures that creeped as high as 25 degrees.
Red Bull KTM tackled the 27-laps of the thirteenth round of the condensed 2020 MotoGP season with all three of their active riders in strong grid positions: Pol Espargaro conquered the difficult damp track on Saturday to register his second Pole Position of the season (and of his career).
Red Bull KTM Tech3's Miguel Oliveira had placed first in Q1 and seized eighth on the grid after the Q2 session, elevated to seventh after a sanction for Aleix Espargaro. Brad Binder explored the limits of grip and traction with his KTM RC16 to sit a promising tenth.
Covid-19 in team
Iker Lecuona was forced to miss the Grand Prix due to Covid-19 quarantine rules after his brother and personal assistant had tested positive for the virus. The Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider had returned a negative test but still had to isolate at his residence. KTM instead looked to their trio of Spanish, Portuguese and South African racers to extend their podium count to six for 2020.
Dry asphalt meant the Sunday morning Warm-up period became essential for the teams to refine their 'dry race' settings. Espargaro led from Pole Position and then circulated inside the top three for the entire distance. The gap to Alex Rins and Joan Mir ahead grew and shrank by tenths of a second but Espargaro could not get close enough to risk an attack for the second step of the rostrum. He crossed the line in third place, just a second behind winner Mir and for the 49th trophy of his career.
Oliveira had a race-long tussle with Takaaki Nakagami and rode to 5th and his third top-five of 2020. Binder, who was obliged to take a Long Lap penalty after his part in the second corner crash at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel two weeks ago, fought back with impressive pace. The rookie clocked the fastest lap of the race with five circulations to go and pushed all the way to seventh for his third-highest result of the season.
Brad Binder: "The race started OK but I got a bit boxed-in through the first two-three corners. I didn't want to take too much of a risk with the full fuel tank and I knew the Long Lap penalty was coming early on. As soon as I did it I dropped down the order and worked to catch back up but then Cal Crutchlow crashed in front of me and I had to run off the track! I lost a few more seconds that lap.
"The comeback was not bad. I felt good and the bike worked really well today. Even when the tires were used we could keep the same lap-times. It was a shame about the result because we had the pace for much better but I'm really happy and I think we can do a good job next weekend."
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: "The weekend started well with Pol's pole position but Miguel and Brad were also in the top ten so we were competitive in those wet conditions. Then race day changed a lot and tire choice was very difficult; we didn't have enough dry laps to make a thorough set-up for the bike but the RC16 was still strong enough to fight for those results. Pol was excellent and Miguel had a superb race to the top five and bravo to Brad for coming back all that way. All three bikes in the top seven is a pretty great day for us and I have to thank the whole team and the factory. In 2018 we took our first podium here and you can see now the amount of progress we have made in such a short time. We hope we can continue like this."