Interview with Brad Binder: “I knew I could do it”

03/05/2016

Red Bull KTM Ajo rider looks back on his first Grand Prix victory, ahead of the French GP.

The Red Bull Grand Prix of Spain was very special event for Brad Binder. Not only did it see his first victory in the World Championship, but he also took the win in historic fashion: Starting from 35th position and crossing the finish line first, the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider staged the biggest comeback of all time. In addition, he became the first South African rider to win a GP in any class since Jon Ekerold won the 350cc race at Monza in 1981 –and the first from his country ever to win in the lower cylinder category.

Before facing the fifth round of the season on Sunday, Binder recounts his unforgettable day.

Did you ever imagine that your first win would come in the way that it did?
“I had imagined that my first victory would be difficult to achieve, but I did not think I’d get it from last on the grid. I knew there was a possibility of doing it, because I had been very strong all weekend, but actually managing it was incredible.”

What went through your head when you crossed the finish line?
“At first it was hard to believe. Not only because it was my first win, but because of how I did it. Once I got back to parc ferme I only thought about celebrating with my family. I have to thank my family, Red Bull KTM Ajo and Aki Ajo. It was nice that my parents could be there at Jerez too. I have no words to thank them for all the effort they have put in to make this possible. It was incredible.”

Starting from last on the grid, what position would you have settled for at the beginning of the race?
“Although people may not have believed in our chances, I must say that I was very sure of myself and of the team, and I knew I could win the race. Throughout the whole weekend we did a great job, going fastest in every session except FP1 and qualifying, and showing great pace. The night before, I could only sleep for 3 hours because of how nervous I was about the possibility of fighting for my first win. After warmup, with the sanction, things got more complicated, but we knew we could do it and we were prepared.”

What does it mean to be the first South African to get a win in 35 years?
“It was a great day for me, and I am very happy about it. Not just for me or my team, but also I hope it was a great day for my country. I receive great support from there and although it took a long time to get this first victory, to do it this way was spectacular.”

“The first three laps were very difficult, but I had a great time. My brother almost knocked me down!”

Talk us through the race.
“I began to prepare on the warmup lap, where I looked at how to ride the first lap –which was very important. In the end I did not have a great start, but I pushed my hardest. The first three laps were very difficult, but I had a great time. We were riding at a slow pace and had around 25 riders all taking different lines. My brother almost knocked me down! [laughs] I am lucky that one of the strengths of the KTM is braking, and that helped me a lot to quickly catch the second group.”

Did you not think at any time that finishing in that group would be a good result because of the circumstances?
“I found it hard to escape from that group, but I had a faster and steadier pace –and I also saw the front three pulling away, so I put my head down and pushed. I gradually cut the distance and caught them.”

When did you see that you could take victory?
“Once I was up with the lead group, it took me a few laps to analyse my three rivals and see their strengths and weaknesses, but when I saw my crew members excited on the pit wall and my lap times, I knew I could go half a second faster. With 5 laps to go, I decided to escape.”

Were you afraid of making a mistake after having done an extraordinary job?
“When I caught the front group it was time to make sure not to do stupid things, like pushing beyond the limit. That was clear. But I saw that I was giving 80% and had more left. It wasn’t about taking a risk; it was about putting in 100%.”

It was a slower race than previous years. Why do you think that was?
“I think it was a little slower than usual because the asphalt wore out tyres a lot. After the first four laps, my rear tyre was already worn, but then it kept the same condition. I could have completed ten more laps and the tyre would have been the same. That may be one reason.”

And now, having taken your first win and being the World Championship leader, how are you planning the rest of the season?
“The whole Red Bull KTM Ajo team are doing a great job. The team are providing me with a bike that works incredibly well, and I feel very comfortable. The first victory has taken a weight off my shoulders because it was hard to get, but now I hope that more arrive soon. There is still a long way to go this season, so we must continue in the same way. “

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