A new gang of unusual suspects rode into contention for the 2020 MotoGP title as Brad Binder scored a dramatic and historic breakthrough victory in the Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno.
Binder became the first South African to stand on top of a MotoGP premier podium as he also gave KTM, an Austria brand best known for dirt bikes, its maiden victory.
Without Marc Marquez, who is still out after a second operation on his broken arm, Fabio Quartararo was able to extend his championship lead despite struggling to seventh place with Yamaha.
Binder, the 2016 Moto3 world champion but riding in only his third MotoGP race, barged his way from seventh on the grid to steal victory at half-race distance from another first-time podium finisher, Quartararo’s Petronas Yamaha team mate Franco Morbidelli.
Surprise pole sitter Johann Zarco hung on to third place despite copping a penalty for knocking Pol Espargaro off his KTM, spoiling what would almost certainly have been a double podium for the company.
“Honestly, right now I am lost for words,” Binder says
“This is a day I had dreamed about since I was little boy. I have to thank my team – they put an absolutely insane motorbike underneath me this weekend. I didn’t know what we could do [before the race started], but I had a good feeling about it.”
Morbidelli won the hole shot from third to take the lead on the opening lap, and immediately stretched a lead of more than second to Quartararo. He looked comfortably out in front, and set for his maiden win, only for Binder to charge through on lap 12 and control the last half of the race.
Still, the Italian was happy to score his first MotoGP podium finish.
“It feels amazing. I’m overwhelmed and just enjoying the moment,” he says
“I started well and did what was in my plan, and not try to overcook the tyre as it was the crucial point this weekend. I saw Brad coming though and I decided not to do anything silly and bring the bike home to my first podium.”
Zarco, who ironically walked out on the KTM outfit last year, had a scrappy race and dropped from pole to sixth on the opening lap before fighting back to third as championship leader Quartararo fell back with an obvious lack of grip.
The Frenchman was forced into a ding-dong battle with Espargaro, who appeared intent on joining – and potentially beating – Binder at the front of the pack, with the former team mates running shoulder-to-shoulder through turn one which bumped the Spaniard into a crash and earned Zarco a long lap penalty in which he miraculously managed to hold onto third place.
“I was keeping the line, and when we touched I didn’t expect him to be there still,” said Zarco.
He fended off a final-lap attack from Suzuki’s Alex Rins to eventually claim his first podium finish since 2018, with Valentino Rossi in fifth and Miguel Oliviera on the satellite Tech3 KTM scoring his best finish in sixth.
Championship leader Quartararo extended his advantage at the top of the leaderboard with seventh as his closest rival from the first two races – Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales – struggled to find any pace and could only finish 14th.
He wasn’t the only headline rider who failed to feature near the front, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci in 11th and 12th while the dominant Repsol Honda outfit continues to be invisible without defending champion Marc Marquez, as his rookie brother Alex came home in 15th and test rider Stefan Bradl bringing up the rear in 18th.
Australian Jack Miller, who finished second at Brno in 2019, also hardly featured in this year’s Czech Republic GP, finishing 10th and dropping two place in the title fight to ninth.
The MotoGP circus heads to the Red Bull Ring in Austria – coincidentally the home of KTM – for a double header over the next two weeks.
Czech Republic MotoGP