Brad Binder Our South African Machine

Wind your neck in!

Donovan takes a look at what Brad Binder must have endured at the Portimao race…

And then there is that little sprint victory in Argentina…

At Portimao, Brad Binder finished a remarkable sixth place of the 18 starters, and less than 0.2sec from Johann Zarco in fourth.

This is old news, also that he raced with a buggered neck and sore shoulders after crashing during testing two weeks earlier. What was possibly not so prevalent in news feeds was just how much of a tear-inducing inconvenience this is to a racer. Especially at a place like Portimao.

Sagely, Simon Crafar spoke of the effect of sitting up out of the screen when braking at 350km/h, when the once protective screen suddenly acts like a jet, forcing concentrated tornado winds straight into your visor leaving your neck to deal with trauma. Yup, that’s really not good.

How Binder overcame that for 25 laps without his head coming off or, at the very least, crumbling into a ball of tears is remarkable.

Crafar mentioned sitting up on the brakes but there’s more to the neck when racing than just a barrage of winds. Racing around a track like Portimao, the rider’s neck is most likely the most acrobatic part of the body.

People who attend track days, especially newbies attending their first few joyous days lapping a circuit on two wheels, are first and foremost taught about the most important tool at their disposal – vision. People at track days talk about body positioning, feeling on the bike, set up, lines, braking, accelerating, tyres, gearing and all sorts of other bollocks that make them sound factory and professional, yet most non-professional riders (even many professionals) don’t use vision properly, and could most likely gain a bucket-load more pace if they just looked in the right places.

From the comfort of an armchair, it sounds pretty easy – “just look ahead” the pundits say. True, but it isn’t quite as straightforward as that. It contradicts our natural survival instincts.

Humans were evolved/designed/simulated to travel at no more than a running pace because humans didn’t go faster than a running pace until around 100 years ago. Yes, we rode horses, but that was the horse doing all the running and seeing. We humans simply pointed them in the right direction and let them get on with it.

Think about travelling at running pace – where are we looking when we run? More so, where are we looking when we are running through the bush with a woolly mammoth on our tail?

We are mostly watching where we step, dodging holes, rocks, snakes and everything else our paved paradise has removed from our leisurely lives. Thus, our instincts are telling us to look just a little ahead of us.

That policy might work fine at 20km/h. At 200km/h while cornering a MotoGP machine with our elbows scraping the tar, it might be somewhat lacking.

That’s why people have to teach themselves to look further ahead than their instincts are suggesting. Very far ahead, and it isn’t easy. To ride a MotoGP bike, riders need to be two steps ahead with their eyes because if they look only at the next step, it’ll be too late by the time they’ve spotted it.

So, before a rider puts on brakes for the corner, they are already looking at the turning point (the point at which they tip the bike into the corner). By the time they tip into the corner, they need to have already spotted the apex (line of sight depending, of course). And by the time they have just tipped into the corner, they are already spotting the exit. Always two steps ahead.

All this really takes it out of your neck. Especially on tracks with tight corners, where two steps ahead means you need owl-like neck-twisting powers.

At Red Star, which has an abundance of tight corners, the first part of your body to get sore is your neck. If not, then you might not be looking far enough.

Portimao also gives your neck a good workout. The track is mostly tight corners of more than 90 deg, and being able to twist your neck to see far enough is vital.

So imagine having a sprained neck where even looking at the person sitting next to you at breakfast is a challenge. Remember, if a rider wants to set the lap times, he needs to be able to look ahead. All that means is that through all 375 corners endured during the 25-lap race of Portimao, Brad Binder was gritting his teeth, getting on with it and beating 12 of the best riders in the world.r

But wait! As they say, theres more!

In Argentina he went on to trounce the field in the sprint race…

“Brad rode a mega race as we all saw,” Binder’s Australian KTM teammate Jack Miller told

“He showed the bike has all the capabilities. He qualified one position in front of me on the grid and he made it work, that’s for certain.

“I could not believe it. I got a decent start but when I started the third lap and saw he was in front. What happened there?”

The South African went P15 to P1 thanks to a sensational launch from the line as he claimed a memorable victory in a spellbinding Saturday. It was quite simply, brilliant!

“I surprised myself a little, but what a start,” said Binder after finishing 0.072sec ahead of Bezzecchi. “The plan worked from start to finish.”

The man does not deserve a medal for this. He deserves a statue built in the main square of every city in the world.

Donovan Fourie –

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