Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Brad Binder of South Africa takes a corner during the Moto2 second free practice session at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Motegi, Tochigi prefecture on October 18 2019. Picture: TOSHIFUMIKITAMURA /AFP
Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Brad Binder of South Africa takes a corner during the Moto2 second free practice session at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Motegi, Tochigi prefecture on October 18 2019. Picture: TOSHIFUMIKITAMURA /AFP

For the best part of a week, SA’s Brad Binder has had to keep secret that not only will he be stepping up to MotoGP, the elite class of motorcycle racing, but that he will be doing so as part of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team.

It had been announced in July that the 24-year-old Binder would be racing in MotoGP with the Red Bull Tech 3 squad, the satellite team of KTM’s MotoGP programme, but on Thursday, ahead of this weekend’s Australian GP at Phillips Island, Binder confirmed he would be with KTM’s top team.

“I knew about the Factory Team ride in Japan already,” said Binder. “We spoke about it for the first time then and we’ve been keeping it quiet until the Australian weekend. It is a huge honour to be going straight to the factory team and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at KTM for trusting me and believing in me to step up. It was a bit of a shock, to be honest.”

Binder, the 2016 Moto3 champion, has been competing in the Moto2 class, and has impressed the KTM motorsport management with his ability to get the best out of their bikes. He has been on KTMs for the past five years. It has not been an easy season for Binder and his Red Bull KTM Ajo team, as they have struggled with a bike that has been inconsistent and off the pace for part of the year.

“Being trusted to be a factory rider is an incredible feeling. I like to think I have been in the factory with KTM in Moto3 and Moto2, and I know MotoGP is a whole other ball game. I’ve been with KTM for the last five years and now again for next year. It’s something I have got to learn. I cannot wait for the chance to make the most of this opportunity,” said Binder.

“The first time I will get the chance to ride the factory bike will be on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Valencia GP, the last GP of the season. We will have two days in Valencia and then two days in Jerez the following week.”

KTM have invested heavily in MotoGP for another five years, making the elite class a focus.

Binder will be teaming up with Spaniard Pol Espargaro, while his countryman, the 19-year-old Iker Lecuona, will take Binder’s spot at Tech 3. Lecuona will team up with Miguel Oliveira, Binder’s former Moto2 teammate.

Binder has had to make another big change for next season as he has had to pick a new racing number. Binder has ridden with the 41 plate on his bike, but in 2020 that will change to 33.

“I will be riding with Pol on the Factory team,” said Binder.

“His brother, Alex, has the No 41, so I have had to choose a new number. I have decided to go with the No 33 for next year. It’s not because I’m mad about the No 33, but it looks like ‘BB’, my initials, and that will be pretty cool.”