KTM MotoGP rider Brad Binder says his strong laptime on the final day of pre-season testing in Qatar came as a surprise.
Binder, who was chosen for the works KTM ride vacated by Johann Zarco for 2020, concluded the Qatar test ninth-fastest as the Austrian marque’s top representative.
With a best laptime only 0.425s slower than pace-setter Maverick Vinales, the South African bested teammate Pol Espargaro by three tenths.
Despite his impressive one-lap pace, Binder admitted that he still needs to work on his race pace ahead of the season opener at the track on March 9.
“We made a change and the bike got way better,” he said. “It felt more comfortable to get the bike stopped and also to get it turned quickly and on the throttle earlier. Once we figured that out, it was easier to put a fast lap together.
“I put on a set of new tyres. I didn’t really expect it. I came across the line and was like, ‘jeez’. But it’s one thing to do a fast lap and it’s another thing to do 22 of them.
“Race distance is hard on this bike; on the MotoGP bike generally it’s a different story. The tyres drop, it starts to spin a lot more, when you lose the fuel how different the bike is crazy. I’ve a lot to learn and very quickly.”
Binder added that he has no real expectations for his MotoGP debut, in which he’ll be one of three rookie full-timers in the field along with Moto2 champion Alex Marquez and Iker Lecuona.
“To me the bike’s pretty good,” said Binder. “Last year’s one was pretty difficult and when I jumped on this one at Sepang it was way better. Today we made quite a big change with the set-up and it was so much better.
“I think it’s trying to find confidence and really understanding how hard you can push into the corners, how to make a laptime. Still I’ve got a long way [to go]. It’s really hard.
“The race, we’ll have to see what happens. I know my race pace isn’t fantastic. My rhythm’s ok, I’m just too slow. But I think it’s kind of expected.”
Espargaro, meanwhile, hailed his new teammate Binder for his “amazing lap”.
“I’m happy my teammate did very well,” said the Spaniard. “He beat me by three tenths with a proper tyre, proper time, and he did an amazing lap.
“In my side also last year and also this year, the top Moto2 riders of the top category, they are coming in my side. I dealt with Miguel [Oliveira] last year, who was very strong in the beginning of the year and during the season, by the end even with injury.
“And now Brad is coming on my side, so the pressure is always high, young guys coming very strong with a lot of energy.”
Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images