Brad Binder is set for his third season in MotoGP with the Red Bull KTM Factory Team and his first competing against his younger brother.
While Darryn Binder begins his rookie testing in Malaysia from January 31st, the elder of the pair has a few more days before 2022 action commences with the official MotoGP test on Saturday February 5th. Despite the wait, the double race winner is well aware of the work ahead of him and has pinpointed steps needed to make his podium presence a regular occurrence.
“It’s always good once you’ve had an offseason because it gives you time to really understand where it is you need to improve,” Binder explained following the KTM launch on Thursday morning. “Not just maybe on the bike side, but more on my riding side - where you really have time to analyse and understand things.
“So on the bike side, I’d really like to see a little bit more traction. That would be great. I think if we were to spin a little bit less on the exit of corners that would go a long way for us. The two key points I’d like to work on is a little bit the stopping and a little bit, as soon as I crack the throttle to try not spin straightaway, to try and keep that traction a little bit better and get better drive out the corners.
“For me as a rider I think a point I can definitely improve in is to try and just get my lines a little bit tighter. I think over a lap I’m definitely making too many metres. I’m not quite tight enough on the inside of a lot of the corners and that’s one thing I want to improve. There’s a lot I still need to improve but that’s one thing that comes to mind straightaway,” he joked.
The South African has become known as a ‘Sunday man’ since his promotion to the premier class, with his Friday and especially qualifying performance leaving him with work to do come race day. Often with spectacular results.
“I can tell you it’s given me a lot of sleepless nights in the past,” Binder admitted. “You don’t sleep so good on Saturday when you’re starting at the back but I think when I look back at the first half of last season compared to the second half I’d say I made an improvement, not much but there was something there.
“I need another step for Friday and Saturday. I think I improved Saturday, still Friday wasn’t very good, but Saturday was a little bit better the second half of the year. I think as I learn the bike more and as I do more laps on the MotoGP bike and get more comfortable, I get quicker, faster. I’m hoping maybe my third season is going to just sort that out naturally. But let’s see.
“Sometimes for me it seems to take a little bit longer to get up to speed than I would like but the main thing is the points on Sunday, luckily. Luckily it’s not the other way around! But definitely being strong on a Friday and Saturday would definitely put me in a better position and make my life a lot easier when the lights go out on Sunday.”
One race in particular stands out in 2021, as the 26-year-old delighted the KTM fans, and factory bosses, with a home win at Spielberg amid challenging conditions.
“For me, it was my only win of the season so it was very important for me for sure,” Binder reflected. “It was a dream to win at KTM’s home race. When you see the amount of orange all around the track, to get it done there is something incredible, for the team and for myself too. It was a feeling that I can never explain. I’m really, really happy to have got that result last year, but a few more would have been fantastic.
“This year, I’d really like to improve on last year. I’d really like to be fighting for the podium a whole lot more often and to have that opportunity to try and fight for wins and podiums would be fantastic.”
Looking ahead to the new 21-race season and with testing at Sepang just a week away, Binder is aware of what still needs work, both for himself and with the RC16.
“As a rider there’s always a lot of things you can improve. The second half of the season it felt like we got to a point where we’re a little bit stuck almost. We were almost searching for the same thing the whole second half of the year. We weren’t getting from corner to corner fast enough it would seem, especially in the low gears, we just didn’t quite accelerate well. Not because we don’t have the power, we just didn’t have the grip.
“Our engine is incredible and I think we probably have one of the quickest engines on the grid for sure.
“I just think when we come from low speed and there’s a lot of torque going into the rear tyre, we weren’t quite hooking up the way we needed to and of course once the spin starts it doesn’t stop so we just weren’t getting out the corners. I know in testing the guys have, from what I’ve heard from my crew chief, they’ve found some small things that have helped. We’re not looking for huge amounts of time. We’re looking for small things here and there and if you can just get out say three corners, four corners over a lap a little bit better, It’s going to add up to quite a bit of time. It’s not huge things we’re looking for. It’s just we need a small improvement in that area and I think it can go a long way.
“I would like to improve the braking of our bike. I think we had it better at one stage and then we kind of maybe lost the way at a point. We need to try and get the whole engine brake side of things much more clean. It keeps a bike much more straight in the braking zones, but I don’t think we were stopping as well at the end of the year. So that’s one thing I’d like to work on and improve.”
Tyres have also been a major thorn in the KTM’s side.
“One thing that was clear from the beginning is when we could run the hard front tyre, we could brake as hard as we want and just throw it into the corner. Whereas when we have to run the softer front tyres we have to be a lot more gentle in that point, and that’s where our bike is really strong. We have to win all of our time in the brakes. So it was something that was challenging at the beginning but as the year went on, we could kind of learn a little bit more. We learned how to manage it better but for sure we still have a long way to go, I think.
“Now, once we’ve had the whole season, we can kind of pinpoint exactly what we think we need, to fix, to improve in these areas which is going to make things a lot more easy for now. When we get to the test we have already got the programme all set up, and hopefully we can find a way and try and start to narrow things down as soon as possible.”
Binder also has a new element to contend with for 2022, the addition of his younger brother to the MotoGP grid. The pair already live, travel and train together, so how does he think the 24-year-old will adapt to the premier class after jumping straight up from Moto3?
“Darryn is actually about to leave for the airport to go to Sepang,” he confirmed. “So it’s a really exciting time for him to get the season up and going. We’ve actually had a really good offseason. I had to come back to Europe a little bit earlier than Darryn so it’s been a little bit difficult to train alongside on a big bike, but my brother has been doing a lot of laps on a superbike preparing for the year. I think things have been looking good.
“To come straight off that Moto3 bike to jump on the MotoGP bike one weekend to the next or a few days apart is a massive challenge,” he said, referring to the post-season Jerez test last November. “But I think once you have had a little bit of a gap to kind of forget one and try and get used to the next, I think that was really important.
“He just needs to give himself time and learn, because the MotoGP bike is no joke. It’s a real weapon. I think if I can give him any advice, is just going to be to really take your time and build into it. Because if you rush things they have a way to bite back it seems.
“I think one thing it comes down to is how comfortable you are on the bike or how confident you are,” he continued, focusing on the progress needed across a MotoGP weekend. “If you feel good from lap one, it’s super easy to be fast but if you’re already feeling not so good or you can’t really trust the feeling you’re getting, it’s difficult to push straightaway.
“Sometimes you need to build into it. I think by having a more similar motorbike from weekend to weekend and the setups stay more similar, you kind of know what you have underneath you so it’s easier to push hard straightaway. Whereas quite often last season I think we played a lot with different things and at some points I wasn’t quite sure where the limit was or how I could work differently with each different part or different things that we had tried. That’s one thing that can help me improve this season, is maybe a little bit more stability over the race weekend. But yeah, you live and you learn so let’s give it a go.”