The Michelin Grand Prix of Styria was the scene for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder to again demonstrate his excellent race potential as the South African powered from 16th on the grid to seize 4th and equal his best classification of the season so far.
KTM RC16s were dispersed through the second half of the start grid with Miguel Oliveira leading the five-rider group in 12th position. The 28-lap MotoGP race had to be red-flagged after an incident which saw Dani Pedrosa’s fallen motorcycle hit by Lorenzo Savadori and the collision ruptured the fuel tank, causing a small fire and a delay to clean the track.
The restart saw Binder as the front-running KTM. The South African managed his tires and grip in a dry race and without any of the rainfall that had affected morning warm-up. Binder pushed and pushed and found himself up to 6th on the last lap. He attacked Johann Zarco and Taka Nakagami in two thrilling and well-judged overtaking moves to capture 4th with one corner remaining. The result equals his 4th from the German Grand Prix and represents his fourth top five ranking of the season.
Wild-card rider Dani Pedrosa set an impressive pace through practice and qualification for his first competitive outing with KTM and more than two years since he last took to a MotoGP grid. The Spaniard was able to restart and kept in contention for the top ten, eventually passing the flag as the second-best RC16s rider on the day.
Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Iker Lecuona and Danilo Petrucci were running close together after the Spaniard was forced to take a Long Lap penalty. Petrucci’s lunge to claim a better position caused him to lose time back to 19th but Lecuona was able to bring the bike home in 15th for the final point on the leaderboard.
Oliveira was nursing a micro-fracture in his right wrist as a result of a slow-speed crash during Friday’s first Free Practice but had undergone some effective treatment to be able to enter the race. The Portuguese was circulating on the edge of the top ten and championship points when he was forced into the pits with a front tire technical issue with 12 laps remaining.
Oliveira holds 7th place in the world championship standings while Binder is 8th.
The Bitci Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich will constitute round eleven of the championship and will give KTM a second attempt at their home venue next weekend.
Brad Binder: “Today was a bit of chaos for the first race back! I almost crashed on the Sighting Lap of the first race actually. I don’t know why but it felt like the front tire had no temperature and for the first flying lap it was like it was wet. We need to look and see what happened. I went down to 25th at one point because I almost ran off the track. I passed four-five guys in the next laps until the red flag. The restart was much better and I had more confidence even if we really need a harder front tire. It is way-too weak for us. I was riding on the tire limit the whole race but managed to make a couple of moves to take 4th, which I was really happy with.”
Dani Pedrosa: “I think it is a good result and we are happy with the outcome and from what we have learned this weekend. I was riding well in the first race and I don’t know why but in the slow Turn 3 I lost the front. It was so slow that I stayed in the middle of the track and Savadori hit the bike. We created quite a big mess there. I hope he is OK. It was a bit tricky then because our second bike was set up for the wet but we could make the changes and for the restart I thought ‘OK, let’s try to finish the race’. I was more calm, more cautious and I didn’t push too much at the beginning which meant I lost a lot of ground. Once I had the feeling of the track and the bike I could push more and gained some positions as riders around me made mistakes. I was closing up to the group and it was interesting to feel how the tires were working; it is different to testing but also what I felt in practice during the weekend. The top ten is good. Thank you to KTM and all my mechanics. They did a great job because we had a few moments when they had to work really hard. Thanks also to the fans, I hope they enjoyed the race.”
Iker Lecuona: “It was a difficult day. In the wet conditions this morning, I felt very strong. I expected the race to be wet but finally it was dry. After 10 laps, I didn’t feel any grip anymore and had a lot of spinning. I struggled a lot and on top of that I got a long lap penalty. I didn’t understand why. With one point, I’m not very happy, as I knew we could have been finishing a lot closer to the front with the potential we have. But it’s just the first weekend and in a few days we have the opportunity to recover, so it’s time to restart.”
Danilo Petrucci: “We knew it would be a difficult race for me in terms of acceleration and in fact, I struggled a lot to stay in the group. I managed to stay quite close to the others but at the end I tried to pass Iker, went wide and lost many positions. I’m very sorry for this mistake! All the race I fought to recover the time lost on the straight. We will try again next week.”
Miguel Oliveira: “I’m disappointed not to finish the race. I felt that the ‘second’ race was going a bit better for me, I could find better lines and make some positions. Behind Brad I was managing the tires and keeping cool but then I started to have a lot of vibration and had to retire because of a tire problem. It’s disappointing because you feel like all the effort has been for nothing. It wouldn’t have been our best result this weekend, but we could have taken a nice top ten from all that we have been through here. The wrist is getting better day-by-day and all the things we are doing to take care of it are working. Hopefully through the week we can arrive to the best shape possible for the second race here in Spielberg.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “We are very happy on one side of the garage because Brad rode really well to get to 4th place, especially in the second half of the race. On the other side we’re really disappointed for Miguel and for what happened to his front tire. We had five bikes on the grid and four finished, including Dani in 10th which was pretty incredible. Iker scored a point and it was very difficult to manage the situation with the red flag and the front tires. We’re happy with the results we made and also that there were no repercussions for anybody in the incident at Turn 3. We’ll now look ahead to perhaps an even better weekend to come. We are working well and working hard. It was great to see the KTM fans and the staff here. This racing project is the result of many people giving a lot of effort at the circuits and in the factory so we’re happy they can see the show and the results on track.
Results MotoGP Michelin Grand Prix of Styria 2021
1. Jorge Martin (ESP), Ducati 38:07.879
2. Joan Mir (ESP), Suzuki +1.548
3. Fabio Quartararo (FRA) Yamaha +9.632
4. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +12.771
5. Taka Nakagami (JPN) Honda +12.923
10. Dani Pedrosa (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +19.389
15. Iker Lecuona (ESP), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing +31.076
18. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing +48.114
DNF. Miguel Oliveira (POR), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing