Brad Binder did a convincing impression of a rider with the performance and mental fortitude of a 2023 MotoGP title contender as he collected his second Sprint Race win of the season and a full-length podium in the Spanish MotoGP at Jerez.
If 'temporary' wild-card team-mate Dani Pedrosa stole the headlines on Friday, come Saturday evening and right through to Sunday, it was Binder flying the flag highest for KTM on a breakthrough weekend for the Austrian manufacturer.
Already race winner this season following his stunning 15th to first place charge in the Argentina MotoGP Sprint Race, Binder put himself in a stronger position ahead of the two races by qualifying a career-best equalling fourth.
A rider whose metronomically consistent pace over a race distance has often made up for lowly grid positions, Binder subsequently made the most of his lofty second row start to grab the lead of both races.
In the Sprint Race, despite ceding the lead to Jack Miller for a short time, a mesmerisingly impressive outside manoeuvre at Turn 5 with three laps to go would see Binder back in front, the South African protecting his advantage to the flag to take his second Sprint win of the year.
"I knew starting from the second row we had good chance of being in the fight. I felt great today and it is so good to walk away this afternoon with another victory.
"Jack did a great job to pull us away at the beginning but I started to struggle with the front tyre pressure increasing and I knew I needed to make a move when the front end was locking-up.
"It’s incredible to take another victory and I want to say thanks to my team, Dani and the test team and the whole of Red Bull KTM for giving us such an amazing and competitive package. Hopefully there is a lot more to come from us this season.”
Eyeing up a fifth career MotoGP victory - his third over a full distance - on Sunday, Binder again got away well to shake out in front of Miller on lap three and begin pulling away from the pack.
It was an escape that looked good enough to take him home, only to come up against a fierce turn of pace by Pecco Bagnaia, who quickly broke down the 0.8s gap to get onto the tail of the KTM with five laps remaining.
With the Ducati Corse rider making his move stick into the final corner with just over three laps remaining, though Binder fought hard to get the lead back before the flag, he'd be forced to settle for second.
Nevertheless, a strong second place finish - his sixth full length MotoGP podium - to make up for crashes out of the Argentina and COTA races, the result lifts Binder to third in the overall standings, 25 points shy of Bagnaia.
"The race was fantastic. So happy to get a solid podium and to be out front leading the race. I kept seeing that I had a little gap, so I thought I had done the job and had to look after my rear tire…but I think I cooked it a bit with three-four laps to go.
"It is what it is, but I managed my best lap of the race right at the end trying to get Pecco: hats off to him. Thanks to my team and to everyone for their support. We’ll try again next week.”
CLICK HERE for the full 2023 MotoGP World Championship standings after the Spanish MotoGP