Riders made their way to Portugal this weekend for the first daylight race of 2021 and the opening fixture in Europe. Sunny and warm conditions in southern Portugal, invited the riders to dive straight into some hot laps around the 4.6 km layout of climbs, drops and diverse corners at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve circuit. With the track itself being a relatively new circuit on the GP calendar, and a host of newcomers on new machinery, this race weekend was surely going to be an exciting one.
Saturday’s qualifying started out great for Darryn Binder, with a fast time in Q1 securing him a spot in Q2. Darryn waited until the final moments of Q2 to make his final qualifying time attack run. Now, here is where it gets rather confusing. Darryn clinched eighth in qualifying, but with the two riders ahead of him starting from the pit lane, Darryn moved up into sixth. Soon after qualifying, Darryn gets handed a pitlane start for irresponsible riding during qualifying.
With a swarm of roaring Moto3 bikes all lined up, the lights went out, but for Darryn, his ten-second wait had just begun. Around the first corner they went and off the line Darryn leapt on his Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda, beginning his chase. Despite this curveball of a start, our fellow South African battled hard to try and close the gap to the main pack.
Although he made good progress at the beginning and was able to join the tail end of the pack, Darryn was unable to maintain the speed and suffered from grip issues. With the camera’s focusing upfront, a steady eye was constantly seeing Darryn floating in the top 20. With the chequered flag out, Binder crossed the line in 20th and now sits third in the championship with 36 pts.
DB: “I had an alright weekend and felt strong in all the practice sessions and qualifying wasn’t too bad, I would have started from the second row. I feel like I’ve been handed a really hard penalty from qualifying yesterday, which meant I had to start from the pitlane. It is what it is, but unfortunately in the race, I didn’t have the pace. We need to look over everything and see what we can do to improve. I’m really sorry to the team for picking up the penalty and for the result today. Hopefully, in Jerez, we can be back to how we were in the first two races of the year.”
Saturday’s qualifying session saw, Brad Binder ride really well in Q2 and nearly push through into Q1 but unfortunately, a small mistake ruined his best flying lap effort. Our ‘Sunday Rider’ also bagged the quickest time through the first sector. Brad would eye the start lights from 15th and have Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (18th) and Iker Lecuona (19th) behind him. Although Brad struggled to make a quick lap in qualifying, he was positive for Sunday due to his KTM RC16 set-up and pace in Free Practice 4.
Brad made an excellent start, leaping from 15th on the grid to 8th on the first lap and then started to hunt down the front-runners. Binder, kept his composure in the leading group, battling with the likes of Marc Marquez, Pecco Bagnaia and Aleix Espargaro for 7th. With the leading group starting to pull away, Brad slid into the lead of the following group and started to make inroads on the front runners.
Brad would eventually take profit of both Alex Rins and Johann Zarco’s low side crashes, bumping him up into 5th. Binder laid it all out on the final two laps and was beginning to close in on the battle for the podium. A little too late, as the chequered flag came out and Binder crossed the line in 5th.
BB: “Happy to get our first top-five of the season. I really wanted to be on the podium today and thought we had the potential to be there with about five laps to go. I pushed as hard as I could but I couldn’t put the key clean laps together at the end as much as I wanted. Overall, I gave my absolute best today and didn’t leave anything on the table. A massive thanks to the team because we did a great job getting the bike ready for the race and we’ll go again in Jerez.”
A crazy weekend of racing is followed by a well-deserved weekend off. A close look at the GP calendar says, the next race will be a Spanish GP at the end of April/start of May, and already the title race is twisting and turning. After all, this is MotoGP.