The SHARK Grand Prix de France moved the 2022 MotoGP season up to round seven of 21 and a bright and packed Le Mans was the scene of another top ten finish for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder as the South African finished 8th.
The notoriously unreliable Le Mans climate initially swung back to an ‘unpredictable’ status at the beginning of French Grand Prix race-day and after two days of practice and qualification work in sunny and warm conditions. The Moto3 sprint was red-flagged and restarted due to a rain shower but the capacity attendance was able to put the umbrellas away shortly afterwards and the 27-lap MotoGP event occurred in sunshine once more.
Brad Binder gunned his KTM RC16 from the sixth row of the start grid and the South African was closely followed by teammate Miguel Oliveira. Contact with another rider through Turn 6 saw Binder’s left aerodynamic ‘wing’ snap free and the South African then had a long and hard slog through the remaining race distance to compensate. Brad resisted and was rewarded with a creditable 8th by the flag. Oliveira, who had also rallied strongly from the second half of the grid, crashed out of 9th entering Turn 3 with just three laps to go.
Tech3 KTM Factory Racing watched their two MotoGP rookies – Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez – in action even though both were less than comfortable physically: Gardner after his fall during the one-day Jerez test less than two weeks previously and Fernandez in his racing return to MotoGP after missing Grands Prix in Portugal and Spain. Sadly, Fernandez crashed out at Turn 6 with 21 laps remaining and Remy Gardner also did not reach the line.
Another back-to-back prospect looms on the horizon for MotoGP with more memorable events coming up in Italy and Catalunya. The circuits of Mugello and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will stage the championship on the weekends of 28-29 of May and 4-5 of June.
Brad Binder: “It was an incredibly tough weekend for us. It started in a difficult way in FP1 and I made a good step for FP2 but it was difficult from then on. In the race I fought hard and did my best. I lost my left wing early and after that life was tricky! The bike was super-unstable and I had to fight like hell. It was physically draining and took a lot more focus than usual to do the same job. Thanks to my team. They worked extremely hard and we did the best job we could. Now it’s time to look forward and get back to where we want to be.”
Miguel Oliveira: “The weekend didn’t start well and I didn’t know what to expect from FP2 but I think it was also one where we improved the most. The race was hard, as we expected, but we tried hard and gained positions. We were inside the top ten but then we crashed going through Turn 3 and I really cannot explain why it happened as I did nothing differently compared to the previous laps. It is quite frustrating not to finish a race when you are so close to the end especially close to a good result. We have to go to Mugello with a positive mindset and try our best there.”
Remy Gardner: “It was a very difficult weekend for us here at the French Grand Prix. We struggled to find a good pace or the right settings on Friday and Saturday, but today it seemed that we had managed to make a little step. Another rider closed the door under my nose, I did a high side, and retired unfortunately.”
Raul Fernandez: “The most important thing today is that I am ok after my crash so I feel lucky. I am really disappointed with myself. Before exiting the garage, I told myself that I had to finish the race for my team, for their home Grand Prix, so I want to apologise to them.
At the start of the race, I pushed too much trying to catch the group of riders ahead of me, and I ended up making a mistake and crashed, losing the front tire. Although my hand still hurts, today I was getting closer to Remy and the other KTM riders, so it is a great shame. We are going through a tough period right now. We need to continue to work hard and find how we can improve our bikes so we can be faster and feel more confident on them. The goal is also to enjoy riding, because when you fight at the back of the grid, it is not very fun.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “Brad’s top ten is something we have to be happy about considering the start of the weekend, and, coming from the sixth row it was not easy to catch a result like that. The riders’ comments made us confident for the future because we think we found something for the race that worked better compared to the rest of the weekend, so there are some positives. We will be stronger and stronger in the near future; I’m convinced of this because we are working very hard. The competition is high and we know we need to improve our qualifying and give the guys a better bike from the first sessions. In general: a difficult weekend but the race gave us some good and useful information.”
Results MotoGP SHARK Grand Prix de France
1. Enea Bastianini (ITA) Ducati 41:34.613
2. Jack Miller (AUS) Ducati +2.718
3. Aleix Espargaro (ESP), Aprilia +4.182
4. Fabio Quartararo (FRA), Yamaha +4.288
5. Johann Zarco (FRA), Ducati +11.139
8. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +18.459
DNF. Miguel Oliveira (POR), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
DNF. Remy Gardner (AUS), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing
DNF. Raul Fernandez (ESP), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing