Brad Binder

Call Me Bradical

Words: Louis Raubenheimer
Photography: Philip Platzer

Earlier this year, a young upstart from South Africa scythed his way through an entire field of Moto3 riders, having started last on the grid. This West Rand native has biking in his blood. He also knows how to maintain belief and remain calm when success seems virtually impossible

Just six months ago, Brad Binder would not have been a name that many South Africans – or, indeed, fans of MotoGP – recognised. But all that has changed. Fast. In April this year, Binder wrote himself into motorcycling folklore and gave rise to an unprecedented wave of expectation in SA biking circles. 

In this article Binder reveals: 

  • How a new approach changed his fortunes
  • His real secret to success 
  • The importance of tenacity 
  • And why you should always find time for Braai, wherever you are

On April 24, in Jerez, Spain, Binder became the first racer since two-time MotoGP champion Marc Márquez to win a Moto race from the back of the grid. Márquez came from dead last to take victory in Estoril in 2010. In doing so, the Spaniard announced himself to be a future superstar, and his status was rubber-stamped when he did it again two years later in Valencia.

It took four years and many races for the feat to be repeated. But when it was, the accomplishment sowed belief among South African racing fans that, finally, we could welcome a world champion back to the country at the end of the season.

With that first win came a boost in confidence as Binder went on a run of victories, which took the young rider to the top of the Moto3 leaderboard and made him one of the most feared competitors on the grid – and favourite for the world championship.

Here are Binder’s tips to maintaining belief, even when the odds seem insurmountable:

A new approach

The one thing that’s different this year from previous seasons is that Brad made the decision to give himself plenty of time between races to just chill out and be more relaxed.

“In the past, I maybe took things too seriously, focusing too much on racing and fitness, and I was always very hard on myself when I failed. This is my fifth year in Moto3, and I’m definitely taking things a little easier. It’s still important to put in the hard work, do the training and look after yourself, but it’s also important to know how to relax.”

Brad Binder

Easy through the corners. Binder has seen a dramatic change in his fortunes

Not even the drama of Binder’s KTM being sent to the back of the grid after qualifying – he was hit with a mapping infringement after using non-approved ECU (engine control unit) software – could throw him off. 

“I definitely approached it in a more relaxed way; if I had gone out there with the mentality that ‘I must get past everyone’, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have happened. I just tried to take it one lap at a time and pick them off one by one. At the end of the day, it’s all thanks to my team; they did such an amazing job in keeping me calm, it took all the pressure away.”

Tale of the unexpected

“I knew I had the speed to do well, and that I just had to keep believing. On Saturday, in qualifying, we’d found out that we had some problem with the bike, but as far as I was concerned we were carrying on as usual. There was just a chance I might have to start in last position at the next race in France.

“When I woke on Sunday, I thought I’d be starting in second. But then, 15 minutes before the race, I found out I was last. Obviously that was a bit strange, and I was definitely nervous, but the team said, ‘Just see if you can get some good points – that’s the main thing.’ So I went out and gave my 110 per cent, going at it as hard as I could. To cross the line in first place was an incredible feeling. I didn’t know at the time that I was the first guy to do it since Marc Márquez. But it’s always cool to hear things like that – when a big name like Márquez is mentioned, it feels a bit crazy. At the time, all I could think about was how happy I was to get my first win.”

Brad Binder

Flat out! Binder gives it horns on his KTM down the straight at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria

Keep on keeping on

Despite it being his fifth season in the sport, Binder felt an immediate increase in his self-belief. And that, he says, is down to his tenacity and perseverance.

“Things definitely changed after that win. I’ve been close a few times, but getting it right in the way I did was a huge confidence boost. Since then, things have felt much easier. Now, when I get out on the track, I know I stand a really good chance of fighting for the win. It doesn’t matter what goes wrong, I’ll still back myself.

“This year’s been good so far – up until Holland, I was on the podium after every race. But you’ll always have weekends that don’t go entirely to plan. When that happens, you’ve just got to stay calm, go away and build again for the next race.”

My secret to success

“I like to keep the same programme in the build-up to a race. I walk round the track on Thursday, and I have the same warm-up routine before I ride. Consistency is key – if we can try to keep our place on the podium every week, the championship will sort itself out. You never know what’s going to happen – things can change overnight – but at this stage it’s looking good.”

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Learn to adapt

Every time you go up a level, things get more difficult. Binder is aware that if he progresses to Moto2 and ultimately to MotoGP, it’s going to be tough, just as it was when he started in Moto3.

“I’ve got my sights set on MotoGP. It’s always really hard in the beginning. You see it with all the guys – they struggle at the start. You’re going from a bike that weighs something like 85kg to one that’s a lot heavier. It’s a lot faster, too. It really takes some time to adapt and settle into Moto2. It’s one of those things that everybody has to go through and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

“There’s no way that I’m going to stop until I’ve done what I set out to do. The ultimate aim is to be racing MotoGP.” And while Brad isn’t running away with things yet, he leaves no doubt as to what the aim for this season is. “I’m going to take things one day at a time, but put myself in the best possible position to fight for the world championship. I know that if I just focus on what I have to do right now, it’s going to help shape my future.”

Brad Binder

Eye on the prize. the Moto3 World Championship is in sight for the rider nicknamed Bradical

Pushing ahead

Making sure that the job gets done requires focus. “When we go out on track, the best thing about it is that we forget about everything else. When you get on your bike and the visor goes down, that’s when it’s time to do what’s required of you. You’re giving it 110 per cent on every lap, you learn more about your bike and about the track. Doing more laps and pushing the limits, you find the quickest way to get around it.

“I feel like if I just stick to my programme and keep working really hard, things will happen for me. I want to fight for the world championship this year and next year I want to progress to Moto2. It’s going to be a big challenge, that’s for sure.”

© Youtube // iLEB

Trust your tools

Binder feels the key to trusting a bike that gets up to speeds approaching 250kph is familiarity and absolute trust in those who look after it.

“The best you can do is spend as much time as you can on the bike. The more comfortable you are, the quicker you’ll be.

“I have six guys on the team who are there just for me. It’s so important to have a good relationship with your team – they’re the people you’re around every week, and then every second weekend you’re racing. We spend a lot of time together, so it’s not just about what happens on the track, but off it, too, like when you’re travelling. It all makes a difference.”

Time for a braai

You might expect a degree of cockiness from the boy from Krugersdorp made good, but there is none. Motorcycling is in his blood: his dad is a bike maniac and his 18-year-old brother, Darryn, races in Moto3, too, so, given the considerable talent pool he’s drawing from, he could be a future breakthrough rider. Home is most certainly where his heart is.

“South Africa is home and every time I go back I never want to leave. Because of where I’m from, things were a lot tougher when I arrived overseas, and having faced that challenge has definitely helped me in my battle to get to the top of MotoGP.”

Awesome afternoon pedal with my brother @41bradbinder here in spain !

A post shared by Darryn Binder (@darrynbinder_40) on

Bike Brothers: Brad (left) and Darryn (right) in Spain

What about the new-found adulation stemming from SA? “It’s a bit strange, to be honest, but the support I’m getting from home is incredible. There’s a lot more press to do, but things are pretty good.”

Binder’s Rs are still good as gold, and he’s still as fond of SA cuisine as he was before he left. “Hahaha, yeah, look we try to hook a braai here in Spain every now and then, but it’s not so easy. It’s not like home, that’s for sure.” This is one local boy who has made a whole lot better than good.

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10 2016 The Red Bulletin

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