After the Boks, the Binder. On Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Springboks had lifted the Rugby World Cup, Brad Binder, an SA flag painted on his helmet, won the Malaysian Moto2 Grand Prix, capping a weekend of wonder and awe for the people of the south.
Unlike the Springboks, though, Binder was unable to claim the Moto2 world championship after Spain’s Alex Marquez finished second behind him to take an unassailable lead in the title race.
Binder’s only chance of taking the title would have been to win the final two races of the season, with Marquez gaining 18 points or less. That was not to be, but Binder is finishing the season in some style, having taken his second win on the trot and his fourth of the season.
Binder, who had qualified third on the grid having broken the lap record in Sepang, started on the front row with pole setter Marquez.
As he has done every time he has been on the front row, the 24-year-old South African blasted into the lead in the first corner. He opened up a 0.7-second gap after the first lap, but the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider made a mistake in the fourth lap, going in hot and bothered into a corner, allowing Marquez to slide into the lead.
It took him just five laps to regain the lead and for a while it looked as though Switzerland’s Thomas Luthi was about to make a charge on Marquez from third place, but that fizzled out towards the end of the race and Marquez got to celebrate his world title with brother Marc, who won the MotoGP title recently.
It was a case of what might have been for Binder and his team, who had struggles with an underperforming bike in the first half of the season. He has been dominant in the second half of 2019, getting on the podium in eight of the last 11 races.
“I can’t be disappointed,” said Binder, who won in Australia last week. “I gave my absolute all today. The track was insane. The grip was absolutely nothing compared to what we had all weekend and it was so hard just to keep the front up.
“I could see the gap [to Marquez] hovering around 0.6 to 0.8 seconds, so I tried to pick it up a little bit and I tried to push again. It didn’t work out too well, but at the end of the day we won the race, so I’m really happy.”
Binder found himself a quiet spot to sit and stream the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday. Last week he watched the match on the move in Australia.
“I watched the semifinal in the rental car on the way to the airport after the race on Sunday,” said Binder. “It was awesome to see how they fought all the way. That belief and heart is a very South African thing. We do not give up as a nation. The Springboks have made us proud.”
There is just one race left in the season for Binder. Valencia on November 17 will be his final race as a Moto2 rider before he moves up to the elite MotoGP class with the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team. Much is expected from him in 2020. His all-action style on the bike is as thrilling as it is effective.
There is a chance, a very good chance, that a South African will be mixing it up at the front of the pack next season. Binder may give South Africans another reason to celebrate in 2020.