Red Bull KTM Factory Racing battled to strong results at the Motul TT Assen as both Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira launched from mid-grid slots to capture 5th and 9th respectively in front of another busy venue of more than 100,000 spectators on race day, hungry for Grand Prix action.
The quick, technical and demanding TT Circuit Assen was packed to the rafters for the first time since 2019 and the wet weather that blighted the first day of Free Practice for round eleven of twenty in the current campaign steered clear for the 26-lap, 118km race distance on Sunday.
Miguel Oliveira had reached his second-best qualification of the season on Saturday with entry to Q2 and 8th position, Binder was not far behind in 10th and at the tip of the fourth row.
As the race started Binder leapt to the fringes of the first five riders and was then battling with Maverick Viñales and Jack Miller for a sniff of the last podium step. Binder set his eyes on 4th place as Viñales escaped in the final stages – light rain even started to briefly fall at one point - but then Aleix Espargaro joined the contest in the closing two laps and the Catalan’s move in the final chicane squeezed the South African. Binder was 5th by less than two tenths of a second and was less than 1.5 seconds from Viñales and the podium. 5th was still Brad’s second-best result of 2022 so far and with a race time almost 30 seconds superior to his 2021 effort at TT Circuit Assen. Oliveira crossed the finish line six seconds behind his teammate but with a well-earned 9th after losing the right fairing sidepod in a bizarre collision with Joan Mir while taking his spot on the grid.
Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Remy Gardner battled to 19th after being bustled into the first corner while teammate Raul Fernandez was forced to withdraw with a right arm problem at half race distance.
Binder rests 6th in the Riders world championship while Oliveira is still in 10th. The Monster Energy British Grand Prix will fill the twelfth stop for 2022 MotoGP but will not take place until the first weekend of August.
Brad Binder: “A good race and it felt like it was qualifying from the start to the end! I tried my-heart-out for the podium, I thought it was possible. On the last lap I dived up the inside of Jack but then Aleix got us both: I’m glad we all made it around and nobody crashed! Anyway, it was nice to have a top five finish; it’s been a while. I started at the front, more than I have done lately, and it’s easier to be fighting from 10th than say 15th. I think we got some good data for the team and it’s clear where we need to improve. Once we get it right then I believe we will be really strong.”
Miguel Oliveira: “I was looking for my spot on the grid and I did not expect Joan to brake that hard. It could have been a worse incident, but I broke my lever protector and also my right side pod and it was tricky to race without it. The bike was a bit unstable in the fast parts – sectors two and four – and I missed a few tenths of a second as well. To finish in the top ten was good but it is always frustrating when you know you could have done better, and I knew today we had the speed and the pace to be a bit faster. I was complaining that I needed to be more consistent and now I think I have four 9th positions! Not the consistency where I’d like to have it but now we have this break to re-group and come back better.”
Remy Gardner: “It was a really tough race. I made a good start which I was pretty happy with, but then I got sandwiched in the first corner by other riders and ended up last. I had to push a lot to try to fight my way back to my position and finished P19. It is time for a well deserved summer break because the start of the season has been very intense.”
Raul Fernandez: “I am not sure exactly what happened at the start of the race but I quickly encountered pain in my right forearm. The muscle was blocked, it hurt, and it became worse lap after lap. I was struggling with braking, so the best decision was to retire because it was unsafe for both the other riders and myself. I would like to apologise to my team because they have worked really hard this weekend.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “A solid fifth position for Brad. A good start and a very fast race, ten seconds quicker than last year and another sign of how the level continues to go up. He was going for 4th place until the last chicane. It was a big improvement over 2021 and because of that better race time we need to understand and analyze; this race can give us a lot of interesting information. We started with the leading group and we were less than three seconds from the winner. Miguel unfortunately had a collision coming to the grid and that damage to the bike compromised his race through the many righthand corners. Anyway, he was able to keep a good pace but couldn’t do anything better. Now we have the summer break and we will re-charge the batteries after an intense first half of the season. We will be confident for the second half of the championship to come.”
Results MotoGP Motul TT Assen
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA), Ducati 40:25.205
2. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA), Ducati +0.444
3. Maverick Viñales (ESP) Aprilia +1.209
4. Aleix Espargaro (ESP), Aprilia +2.585
5. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +2.721
9. Miguel Oliveira (POR), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +8.325
19. Remy Gardner (AUS), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing +34.947
DNF. Raul Fernandez (ESP), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing +26.548