|KTM made their best start to a MotoGP season – in what is only their sixth year on the grid – as Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder rode his RC16 at the Lusail International Circuit to finish runner-up in the Grand Prix of Qatar last weekend.
The South African qualified through Q2 after initially heading Free Practice 1 at the flat, fast and dusty floodlit circuit located just outside the sprawling capital city of Doha. Binder showed snippets of highly competitive race speed throughout the sessions on Friday and Saturday and at a notoriously tricky venue for the entire KTM MotoGP effort. The factory had never broken into the top five of a Qatar Grand Prix, since making their debut in 2017, but Binder showed their continuing surge in performance by lodging his #33 machine into the leading group and charged to the flag.
Binder passed both Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro to slide into 2nd position and was hounding the rear wheel of winner Enea Bastianini on the last lap of 22 at Lusail. The trophy represented Binder’s third in the MotoGP category at the beginning of his third term in the class. It was the second time the 26-year-old had finished in the top three at the opening race of the season: the first occasion was back in 2016 (also at Qatar) when he went on to win the Moto3™ world championship.
In 2017 KTM took a best result of 16th at Lusail and were 33 seconds away from the victor. In just six rapid years the ranking has improved to 2nd and the gap was just three tenths of a second.
MotoGP now moves to the new Mandalika Circuit for the Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia on March 20th.
Brad Binder: “Incredible. If you told me we’d be 2nd in Qatar after the first test I wouldn’t have believed you. Today was a great day, it was a great weekend. I knew we had a good level but I had so much confidence and belief in the bike from beginning to end. We made such a huge step. For us to be on the podium in Qatar is insane. Now we’re looking for more!”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “An almost perfect start to the season and a deserved result for Brad and the whole team. It was an incredible race pace but he was able to manage the speed. The start was fantastic. Let’s keep going in this direction. The next race will be a challenge but we will look forward to it.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “It was an outstanding weekend. We restructured our whole program over the winter after coming so far, so quick and it was time for a change. This weekend showed we are on the right way and the podium was the ultimate payback. In fact, I still cannot believe it because this track is one of the toughest for us. We turned it around and this result means a lot to us.”
Grand Prix of Qatar MotoGP photos can be downloaded HERE.