INTERVIEW | Darryn Binder: Flying SA’s flag in MotoGP and taking over from Valentino Rossi

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SA's Moto3 rider Darryn Binder with Yamaha Factory Racing managing director Lin Jarvis
SA's Moto3 rider Darryn Binder with Yamaha Factory Racing managing director Lin Jarvis
Yamaha Factory Racing

 • Darryn Binder will join brother Brad on the MotoGP grid in 2022.
 • Binder will race for the RNF Yamaha team alongside Andrea Dovizioso. 
 • He will replace Valentino Rossi who retires at the end of the 2021 season. 
 • For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24.

Earlier in October, Yamaha announced South African rider Darryn Binder had been recruited to make the jump from Moto3, where he currently competes, to the premier MotoGP class.

Binder will join the RNF MotoGP team, which is essentially the rebranded Petronas team for which he races in the Moto3 class and takes over from Valentino Rossi, who will retire at the end of the 2021 season.

Binder will be joined by teammate Andrea Dovizioso in what is the official Yamaha satellite team.

Known for his fighting spirit and making the most of every available opportunity during a race, the 23-year old has ridden to six Moto3 podiums to date.

Wheels24 sat down with Darryn Binder following this announcement to chat about Moto3 and moving up to the big leagues.

Darryn Binder, Moto3 race, Aragon MotoGP, 12 Septe
Darryn Binder, Moto3 race, Aragon MotoGP, 12 September 2021

Wheels24: You made significant improvements this year and regularly fought for podiums. To what do you attribute that success?

Binder: I have managed to tone down the aggression a little bit, made fewer mistakes, and I haven't fallen off as much. Dialling it back a bit has allowed me to be more consistent, and I feel that it has worked, but unfortunately, I haven't been getting the results I wanted.

W24: There have been some horrific crashes and red flags in Moto3 this year. How do you block that out and get back to racing?

When there are big crashes and red flags, I try not to watch, especially if it is being replayed on the big screen. I try just to focus and think about what I need to be doing and what I need to achieve.

W24: How do you manage the chaos that is Moto3 with six riders fighting for the same piece of tarmac at most corners?

Being in Moto3 for so long, I have definitely gotten used to the craziness. It is challenging because when the groups are big, the racing gets crazy; you have to think for everyone and try to keep your nose clean. I have always been quite an aggressive rider, and sometimes it benefits the aggressor in those situations. The other riders are more worried about you than what you are about them.

Darryn Binder, Moto3 race, San Marino MotoGP, 19 S
Darryn Binder, Moto3 race, San Marino MotoGP, 19 September 2021

W24: How do you feel about the jump straight from Moto3 to MotoGP?

I am super happy; it's my lifelong dream to race MotoGP, so when this opportunity came along, it was a no brainer for me to say yes and take the step.

I also do believe that if you are going to make a big step like this, the best bike to do it on is the Yamaha. It seems to be one of the easier bikes to ride in the MotoGP class at this stage, and I see that as a big positive.  

While the traditional route would be to race in Moto2 first, it can be a tough class to be competitive in. The gearbox is different, based on a production bike and from what I have heard, the tyres are very hard and unforgiving. It is a one-make class with many good riders where small things make a big difference, so it is a demanding environment to make a name for yourself. 

W24: What are your thoughts on finally getting to race against your brother Brad on an equal footing?

In the beginning, it will be tough to catch Brad as he already has two years of experience in MotoGP, and I will need to learn really quickly. But I hope that once I find my feet, we can have some battles out on track. It will be really cool to race against my brother, and I hope to come home with the bragging rights.

Darryn binder,Brad Binder
Darryn (left) and Brad Binder

W24: How do you think your riding style will need to be adapted for the MotoGP bike?

I will have to see what it is like when I ride the bike for the first time. I will definitely need to adapt my riding style to the bigger bike, but I am not sure what is required yet. That is why it is crucial to have a good team behind you and a very experienced teammate; they will need to guide me and point me in the right direction.

W24: What do you think will be the biggest challenge in getting to grips with the MotoGP bike?

I think the weight. Yes, it is more powerful, and the brakes are better, but the weight is a significant factor. Over the December break, I will be focussing on getting stronger; in Moto3, the bike is so light that you don't need to be very strong. I haven't been going to the gym, as I don't want to pick up any more weight while I am in the Moto3 class, but it will be necessary for the MotoGP bike. 

W24: The satellite Yamaha team has developed some incredible talents over the last few years with the likes of Fabio Quartararo, who just became world champion and Franco Morbidelli. Does that mean the seat comes with added pressure?

If anything, it makes me feel good. I joined the team because the goal was always to progress to MotoGP. I have been with the team for a year now, and they believe in me and that I have what it takes to make this jump. For them to give me this opportunity shows that they believe in me. But it is going to take time to find my feet, and they understand that. As long as we work together and keep chipping away, things should fall into place.

Darryn Binder,moto3
Darryn Binder

W24: How does it feel to be taking over from Rossi?

It blows my mind, to be honest. This year it was already awesome being part of the same greater team with Petronas. Since I was a kid, he has been my idol, and to bid farewell to him from the same team is a privilege. It is actually crazy that I am taking his place, and at the same time, I wish I could have raced against him, but I am grateful for the opportunity to step up to MotoGP.

W24: You will be teaming up with an experienced rider in Dovizioso and working with Wilco Zeelenberg, who has helped riders like Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow achieve success. What do you hope to learn from these guys?

I just want to take in as much as I can. Whatever they have to say, I want to be there to listen. Up to this point, I have mostly been figuring things out by myself and doing what I think is right, so it will be good to hear what they have to say and learn from that. I need to take the information that they give me and make the best of it.

W24: There are many potential riders who could have been awarded this ride. What do you think set you apart from the others?

It is difficult to say, but I have gotten on well with the team managers since joining the Petronas team. I think they have seen something in the way I perform in Moto3, how I work, and how I fight in the races. They have noticed that no matter where I qualify, I am constantly fighting and moving up the pack, and I think they could see that even when we were down on speed, I always gave my best and never gave up. They obviously put that across to Yamaha and motivated for me, and I think once Yamaha thought about it, they realised it was a risk worth taking.

binder brothers, darryn binder, brad binder
Brad Binder of South Africa and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing celebrates with his brother Darryn Binder of South Africa (R) the victory at the end of the MotoGP race during the MotoGP Of Czech Republic race at Brno Circuit on August 09, 2020 in Brno, Czech Republic.

W24: You are proudly South African, and since your and Brad's success, South Africans have really started following the lower classes too. What is the support like for you from back home?

The South Africans are always pushing for you. You jump online, and if anyone has got anything bad to say about you, our locals are roasting them up in the comments. It's incredible how much our local fans support us, and I really appreciate that because I just love South Africa.

W24: Do you think we will ever see a MotoGP race at Kyalami? 

I don't know if having two South Africans on the grid has anything to do with it, but I hope it does. I would love to come back to South Africa and have a home race. I am constantly pushing the guys, telling them what a great track Kyalami is.

W24: What is your favourite track on the current MotoGP calendar?

My favourite track has always been Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. It is so fast, but it is more than just the track. I love it because it reminds me of South Africa in a way because everyone speaks English. Also, when we are there, we stay on the island in these little houses close to the beach. You feel like you are on holiday, but you are racing at the same time, making it really special.

What advice would you offer SA's youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps?

One of the best ways is to get to Europe as soon as possible and get involved in the Spanish or Italian championships. The level of racing is extremely high, and they use the same type of bikes that we are using in Moto3. The same teams as in Moto3 are also involved in those championships, so if you can make a name for yourself and find the right team and do well, they will take you all the way. 

The Red Bull rookies cup remains a good option. You try out, and if you get selected, you just need to get to the races; Red Bull provides the rest. It is a great stepping stone as you are in the MotoGP paddock at many of the races, making it a great way to get noticed.

W24: What number will you be using on your MotoGP bike next year?

Luckily as I am stepping straight to MotoGP, I can keep the same number, #40, and it will still look the same. I might also stick with my current helmet design that features all the colours of the South African flag, which I really enjoy.

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