Red Bull KTM Factory Racing injected some orange colour into the first day of the SHARK Grand Prix de France as Brad Binder rode from 10th on the grid to 2nd at a packed Le Mans for his third Sprint podium result from five rounds this season.
Onto Le Mans, and the short Bugatti layout of the famous 24hr course for round five of 2023 MotoGP. Le Mans celebrates its centenary this year and the MotoGP series also reached a historic 1000th Grand Prix at a venue fit for the occasion. The 4.2km layout favours acceleration and hard braking and the KTM RC16s were in contention for the top of the time sheets from the first laps in northern France.
During sunny but cool and windy conditions on Friday, Jack Miller was the fastest rider at a circuit where he had taken Moto3 victory in the past and had also stood on a MotoGP podium. The Aussie maintained P1 through both Practice 1 and Practice 2 putting him into Q2. He was just two-tenths of a second off Pole Position on a sunny Saturday and began the 13-lap Sprint from 4th; the same position he’ll line up for the Grand Prix distance on the Sunday. Jack was running 3rd in front of a packed attendance and the best Saturday crowd for MotoGP this term but slipped out at the Le Musée curve on lap two.
Brad Binder was also directly into Q2. The South African was seven-tenths from Pole and accepted 10th place on the grid but with full knowledge that his starting expertise would help move him into contention. In the Sprint he took advantage of the dispute between Marc Marquez and Francesco Bagnaia to brilliantly pass both rivals out of Turn 4 and occupy 2nd place. Brad tried to catch leader Jorge Martin but made sure of his third Sprint medal (from five Grands Prix in 2023) and the points haul brings him up to P2 in the championship table.
The red light disappears at 14.00 CEST to open 27-laps of racing action on Sunday.
Brad Binder, 10th in qualification, 2nd in the Sprint: “I knew the start was everything for the Sprint. If I could just cut through and hang with the boys at the beginning then I knew I could run at the front. I gave my best out there today and I have to thank my awesome team because we did an incredible job again. It is clear what we can improve for Sunday so I’m really looking forward to it: I think we can do a much better job in the long race.”
Jack Miller, 4th in qualification, DNF in the Sprint: “Unfortunate crash because we’d been having a strong weekend so far. I put the Medium front on and it came up a bit. I should have listened more to my own feeling about the bike because, from the get-go, I was struggling a bit, and on the second lap I wasn’t able to stay up. It was a shame but we learnt from it. We’ll see what we can do in the full race tomorrow because we had a great qualifying and the bike is really good here. I feel really strong.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “Bittersweet emotions today. Jack was 3rd and suddenly crashed. We still need to check the data but maybe it was too early to push the Medium tire that much. Brad was on fire, as usual, he attacked at the beginning to be in the leading group and then made that fantastic double overtake. Martin had a gap but it was a clever race to stay in 2nd. Another small brick in our decent wall so far! It looks like the weather will be stable for tomorrow and the Sprint today helped us to be ready for Sunday.”