Motorland Aragon, Spain – Brad Binder is the champion of the world! The 21-year-old sensation became the first South African motorcycle Grand Prix title winner since 1980 when he clinched the Moto3 world championship at a dramatic Aragon GP in Spain on Sunday.
Coming into the race with a 106-point lead over Italian Enea Bastianini, Binder needed to finish in one of the top two positions to secure the title with four Grands Prix still to go in the season.
Starting the race in fifth, Binder had to negotiate his way through some traffic, and hit the front with 12 laps to go. But in a seesawing battle with Bastianini, Spaniard Jorge Navarro and Italian Fabio di Giannantonio, Binder exchanged the lead throughout the last 10 laps with his main rivals.
Entering the final lap in fourth position, Binder quickly moved into third, but looked like he wasn’t going to get the second spot that he needed. However, the South African – on a KTM bike – waited until the second-last corner before making a superb move that saw him take the lead with the final corner coming up.
But Navarro, on a Honda, moved into Binder’s slipstream on the home straight to take the lead and win the race. Binder, though, had done enough and raised his arms before crossing the line to claim the 20 points he required for the title.
It capped a magnificent season for the youngster from Potchefstroom, who won five out of the 14 races so far this year, four second places and two third places that has built up an unassailable 249 points, 106 ahead of Navarro in second with a maximum of 100 points up for grabs in the last four events.
'It doesn't feel real yet'
Binder became the first South African motor racing world champion since Jon Ekerold won the 350cc motorcycling world title in 1980. The other South African to win a motorcycling championship is Kork Ballington, who won consecutive 250cc and 350cc double titles in 1978 and 1979. Jody Scheckter won the Formula One championship in 1979.
Binder, who has been based in Spain in the past few years, was watched by his parents Trevor and Sharon in the stands on Sunday, and he was in tears afterwards.
“I don’t know, it doesn’t feel real yet,” an emotional Binder said immediately afterwards. “The race was tough, I battled a lot. But it came down to the final lap and I knew where I had to be, and I gave it a try – I was just so terrible in the last corner! But today we lost the battle, but we won the war. I’m really, really happy and I can’t wait for the rest of the season.”
It has been a tough time for local sport over the last few weeks following the Springboks’ defeats in Australia and New Zealand, but after Heritage Day on Saturday, South Africans can bask in the glory of our newest global star.
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