Brad Binder achieves personal best qualifying at Phillip Island – 4th
Story: Donovan Fourie
Phillip Island is a strange circuit. It’s fast and flowing, the surface is grippy and torturous on tyres and the weather can turn around every half an hour. Riders that appear to be unbeatable throughout practice often go backwards in the race, and riders qualifying nowhere on the grid often end up victorious. For example, last year’s MotoGP podium saw three riders that all didn’t make it into the vital Q2 qualifying.
For South Africa’s Brad Binder, Phillip Island has been a place of much success – last year he took an easy victory in the Moto3 race, and this year he sees his best qualifying performance by far, starting on the front of the second row in fourth.
The weekend started well in practice yesterday. Binder’s usual MO is to end up somewhere around 20th in Friday practice, qualify around 18th place and then blast through the pack in the race to finish well in the top ten.
This race, things have been somewhat different – in the first practice session, where Binder normally finds himself in the mid-twenties, he was 16th. In the second practice, he found himself in 12th. In this morning’s wet but drying FP3 practice he ended up in an eye-opening 5th place.
Then qualifying started, with the track dry but with the clouds rolling in, and with them came the mixed fortunes of Phillip Island. Takaaki Nakagami, who had dominated the weekend so far, suddenly went back to 7th and Mattia Pasini, who was 13 in practice, put in a magnificent lap to snatch pole.
Binder has always battled with new tyres, a problem that has plagued his qualifying performance throughout the year. The grip from the rear tends to overwhelm the front, making the bike push wide. During the race, when the rear tyre wears a little and starts sliding, he is able to up his pace. But this doesn’t help during qualifying, when it’s all about pushing hard on new tyres.
By whatever means, Binder overcame this during the PI qualifying, and found himself in an unfamiliar fourth place, right behind Pasini in pole, and only 0.153 sec off his time.
This is exciting news for the race tomorrow, because both of Binder’s top five finishes this year have come after qualifying between the fourth and sixth rows. His previous best starting position was at Misano in 16th place. What does him starting from the second row mean?
Could Phillip Island be Binder’s first Moto2 win? He has a bloody good shot at it.
The race starts tomorrow morning at 5:20 South African time, with the MotoGP race starting after that at 7am. Set your alarms. This could be good.