Darryn Binder had the ride, and fight of his life on Sunday after putting his WithU Yamaha into the top ten at the IndonesianGP.
Wrestling in the challenging conditions, as rain struck Lombok Island half an hour before the premier class race was due to start, delaying proceedings by over an hour and with the race distance already reduced to 20 laps over surface concerns, the South African launched from 22nd on the grid. By lap seven he was in a point-scoring position with teammate Andrea Dovizioso just in front before the second Yamaha was forced to retire with a technical issue.
Further progress found him enter the top ten and on the wheels of his elder brother’s factory KTM before he dispatched the Red Bull on his way to eighth. The final three laps saw further family battles as the M1 struggled with late-race grip, Binder caught in a three-way fight with both Brad and Aleix Espargaro, his limited experience in the wet on the MotoGP bike leaving him on the back of the group as the chequered flag came into view.
“Yeah, so it was an interesting race for sure,” Binder exclaimed after the dust had settled.
“When it started raining before the race, I was like, 'Okay, I’m quite excited to get a rain race under my belt, because it's a learning experience and you know that it's going to come at some point so I might as well just attack it now!’
“Already from the out lap to the grid I was really impressed with the amount of grip that the wet tyres had,” he continued, having run Michelin’s medium rain compound. “Just going to the grid I was like, 'Wow, this feels quite okay'. I started off the race lap by lap, going a bit harder, bit faster and every lap I was really so impressed with the grip and the feeling that I had with the wet tyres that I just kept pushing, kept pushing. Then I started making a couple passes and before I knew I could see that I was in the points and I was catching the guys in front of me. Later down the line I got past my brother which was super cool.
“Towards the end of the race, once I got to the front of that group, I was struggling a little bit with the rear tyre, definitely dropped a little bit, and I wasn't able to push as much as I did in the beginning. Then it came down to the battle at the end, just trying to fend the guys off because, I mean there's two laps to go and I wanted to try and be first in the group. Then my brother got the better of me and then I fought a little bit with Aleix so I wasn't able to get back with him and try and have a fight with him the last lap.
“Overall, it was a really good experience in the rain. I'm really, really happy with how things went. I felt like I gave it a good shot and I'm really pleased with my results.
“I spoke with my brother after the race, and he was like 'Oh, well done that was great!' And then he says to me, 'I had some issue with the ride-height device' and I'm like, 'Oh, well you beat me anyway. I don't know why you're complaining.’ I think he was maybe a bit surprised to see me in the race but yeah, he was really happy for me. So I'm really happy. Obviously when he passed me, he took the opportunity because Aleix passed me and I was a little bit wide trying to come back underneath Aleix. Brad took the both of us, a two for one special!
“These guys, the last lap they were all fighting, I was really surprised. It felt like we were fighting for victory even though it was like eighth.”
When asked if he enjoyed the experience of fighting with his brother in a MotoGP race, the South African was openly animated in his response.
“100 per cent!” Binder confirmed "Not only my brother, all the guys that I fought against today. These guys have MotoGP experience, I was fighting against guys that have race wins, and this is my first time in the rain. So it really gave me a nice feeling inside and I really enjoyed it. It was really fun. I’m gonna enjoy this moment and remind myself tomorrow that when we get to Argentina we have to start again. Relax and take it step by step because it's going to be a new track for me on the MotoGP bike again. Gonna have to enjoy the moment now and then back to reality.”
Despite his lack of experience, having jumped directly from the Moto3 class in with the big guns, Binder is taking his GP education steadily. Well aware of the open criticism his move to the premier class, and his previous Moto3 antics received.
“During the race, especially at the beginning as I started getting faster and faster, I was figuring it out you know,” he admitted. “I didn't want to brake too hard or too late or take too much throttle and have a crash but step by step as I started going lap-by-lap I started figuring it out. At the same time when I'm telling myself 'you're doing quite alright' I could see I was catching the other guys, I was telling myself 'just keep it steady', but at the same time, I didn't want to calm down and make a mistake and crash or anything. So I just kept on pushing.
“Once I got to the front of that group towards the end of the race, I had to chill a bit because I could definitely feel that I didn't have the same amount of grip as I did in the beginning. Then when we started fighting I was like, 'Okay, now just don't make any mistakes. You've done a really good job up until now so finish it off as best you can'.
“I've been known to crash before in the past but right now I feel like I haven't even reached 80 per cent of what this bike is capable of.
“So I'm still myself,” he continued. “Okay, I make mistakes now trying to find the way but I feel like in Moto3 sometimes I definitely overrode because I wanted too much and I was asking too much for what I had. Right now that's in the past and right now I'm just trying to learn and focus on moving forward. Like I said, next race, I'm gonna have to remind myself that I've got to start a bit slower again, it's not going to be this fun every weekend until I've got things under control.
“I was battling with the guys, but by no means do I think I was out of control or in any way dirty. The closest to contact I had was when my brother swooped up the inside and I got a bit of a fright! I felt like I was riding quite reasonably well and I did keep in mind things from obviously Qatar, when I was passing these guys. I was like, 'Now's not the time to make a silly mistake', because there's a lot of big names that I was trying to pass and I was like, 'If I make a mistake, I'm going to get nailed again'. So it was definitely in my mind but at the same time, I feel like everyone was fighting pretty hard.
“At the end of the day, it is a race, you're trying to do the best you can so I raced as hard as I could. It's not always going to be this easy to fight for good results so for sure, I was trying to do my best. I would have loved to have rather finished eighth but anyway tenth is better than nothing, for sure.
“I'm happy with how things went and I hope that I don't really have anything to prove to anyone. At the end of the day I've been given this opportunity and I'm trying to make the most of it.
“I'm trying to do my best in every session that's out there. Some of the practices I struggle a bit but I've always been a better racer than a practicer so in the race days I always try to give it my best and no matter what the condition I try and get the utmost best that I can.”