High speeds, rapid acceleration and hard braking—this is the Red Bull Ring, the scene for round four of the MotoGP World Championship.
Less-than-stellar weather provided unpredictable conditions for both practice and qualifying this weekend. But even with the weather, Pol Espargaró was able to clock the fastest lap time in two of the four sessions, and lined up 5th on the grid. Brad Binder struggled during free practice with not enough track time under his belt, but made some steps forward to get himself 17th on the grid.
Riders soon arrived at their starting blocks for what was to be the first of two races held at the unforgiving Red Bull Ring. Holeshot systems engaged and lights off, Espargaró launched off the line and in no time at all found himself leading the race, with Binder already mounting a strong comeback from 17th.
Brad picked his way through the grid (setting a fastest lap in the process) and found himself behind the main group in 10th, while Espargaró was in a dogfight with two Ducatis for 1st.
On lap nine the unthinkable happened. A high speed crash between Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco before turn three’s braking zone caused a near death experience for Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi, as both bikes hurl passed them mid-corner. The race was briefly red flagged, and the remainder shortened to a 20-lapper. Morbidelli and Zarco were both thankfully back on their feet, but it was one of the most heart-stopping accidents in MotoGP history.
A restart allowed riders to fit new rubber to their machines, and the starting grid was decided by counting back to the previous completed lap, before the crash. Espargaró started on ‘pole,’ but lost the advantage he’d built up, and soon conceded his lead to Jack Miller. At the same time, Brad pipped another two spots, moving into eighth with no sign of slowing down.
It was not to be Espargaró’s day. After losing a few more positions, he and Miguel Oliveira touched and crashed out; an unfriendly déjà vu moment.
Meanwhile, Brad ran a smooth and calculated race to gain even more ground. An unexpected lowside by race leader Alex Rins handed the lead to Andrea Dovizioso, and bumped our local boy up one more position into fourth. Brad defended his position and held his ground from Rossi all the way to the finish line.
Four races in, Brad’s fourth place finish now sees him sitting fourth in the overall standings. It’s another well-deserved pat on the back for the South African rookie, who proved yet again that even though he hasn’t racked up impressive qualifying results (yet), he knows how to put it together, come Sunday.
Brad Binder: “Today was much better than we expected. I was happy with fourth position, I have to say. It was tough at the beginning because I was able to make up places and it was a shame about the red flag but it did give me an opportunity to restart from higher up on the grid. I didn’t pass too many riders after the restart but there were a lot of crashes. On one hand I’m quite satisfied but then I was also pretty lucky. Things turned out well but let’s work again for next week.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “This GP was like a rollercoaster. Pol had the first race under control. He had the right tire, the lead and the right plan. So, the crash destroyed that rhythm but we are really lucky that nobody was seriously hurt and that was a very positive thing. Pol did not have his race tire for the restart so he was not as strong and we don’t quite know what happened with him and Miguel but is was very unlucky. Brad finished the weekend in a great way after his starting position. Fourth was a decent result for a rookie in his first time out at the Red Bull Ring and the same can be said for Iker. We are super-happy for him. We have always seen his potential and he just needed to bring the bike home. Overall KTM had a great weekend, especially through the other classes as well.”
Results MotoGP myWorld Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich 2020
|1||DOVIZIOSO Andrea||4||ITA||Ducati Team||28’20.853|
|2||MIR Joan||36||SPA||Team Suzuki Ecstar||1.377|
|3||MILLER Jack||43||AUS||Pramac Racing||1.549|
|4||BINDER Brad||33||RSA||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||5.536|
|5||ROSSI Valentino||46||ITA||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||5.837|
|6||NAKAGAMI Takaaki||30||JPN||LCR Honda||6.403|
|7||PETRUCCI Danilo||9||ITA||Ducati Team||12.498|
|8||QUARTARARO Fabio||20||FRA||Petronas Yamaha SRT||12.534|
|9||LECOUNA Iker||27||SPA||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||14.117|
|10||VINALES Maverick||12||SPA||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||15.276|