SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO, Argentina (Reuters) – Red Bull KTM rider Brad Binder put on a masterclass in bravery and skill to win Saturday’s MotoGP sprint race at the Argentina Grand Prix after starting 15th on the grid.
VR46 Racing’s two Ducatis of Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini completed the podium, while championship leader Francesco Bagnaia, who started on the front row, could only finish sixth behind pole sitter Alex Marquez.
While most riders took a wide line going into the opening corner, Binder found space on the inside and overtook nearly half the grid in front of him at the first turn before picking his way through traffic.
“I surprised myself a little bit there, what a start! I got super tight in turn one and just tried to hug the inside,” Binder said in a post-race interview.
“And then just one at a time. I tried to say, ‘OK, if I go to the front and I fight like hell, there’s a good chance I can maybe stay there’. So the plan worked out perfectly.”
Binder quickly moved up with a fastest lap early on and by the end of the third lap, the South African was a man on a mission and had moved up to take the lead.
Marquez had overcome a crash and fire on his Gresini Ducati machine to clinch his maiden MotoGP pole earlier on Saturday and although he had the lead, a mistake dropped him down to fourth by the second lap.
The two VR46 machines had swapped paint early on but they quickly found their groove and overtook Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli to move up behind Binder.
Once Bezzecchi got past his Italian compatriot Marini, he looked to hunt Binder down on the final lap but the Red Bull KTM rider held on for the win.
“I could hear the boys right behind me in the last lap, so I had to keep blocking, but thanks so much to my team. The step they made from yesterday was unreal – my bike worked fantastic,” Binder added, as he moved up to fourth in the championship.
Bagnaia still leads the championship with 41 points while Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales, who was seventh in the sprint, is 13 points behind ahead of Sunday’s race while Bezzecchi is a further three points adrift.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter and Pritha Sarkar)