At the close of a tense Moto3 race in Misano, you would be hard pushed to find a rider exuding more confidence than Brad Binder, a man who is refusing to pin his hopes on claiming a first world title at Aragon on Sunday.
In his latest outing, Binder timed a last lap attack on Enea Bastianini to perfection to collect his fifth 25-point haul of the year, placing him on the brink of collecting the Moto3 world crown.
An awful run of form from long-time contender Jorge Navarro, coupled with Binder surfing a tidal wave of confidence have contributed to the 21-year old needing just one second place finish from the remaining five races to become South Africa's first motorcycle world champion since 1980.
But Binder, who possesses a sizeable 106-point lead, is not overly concerned with where he claims the crown. “I know if I ride the way I am riding now, I can see this thing through to the end,” he confidently asserted after his latest triumph.
“There are four races to go. If I come tenth in Aragon it's not going to make a difference. It'd obviously be great to win the race there. That's our goal. If I can win the race or finish behind him it's done.
“Obviously it'd be nice [to win it in Aragon]. But Malaysia, Australia and Japan are my favourite circuits. So if happens there, or at Aragon, it's not the end of the world. I know if I ride the way I am riding now, I can see this thing through to the end.
“[At] Aragon, I was super-quick there last year. I'm smarter this year. My bike's better. I have a much better understanding of what I need to do.
“I feel stronger now. At the beginning of the season I was still a little bit inconsistent. This weekend my worst position was second or third. Every session when I looked at my name I'm either first or second.
“Almost always. Old tyres, new tyres, whatever the situation is, I feel like I'm on top. I feel I've made a really good step with my riding and I'm taking the benefits of that now.”
On the reasons for this feeling of strength, Binder continued, “I feel I have such a good structure behind me. I have an incredible team, an incredible bike. I feel strong and happy every weekend. I cannot thank my team enough.
“The things I've learnt this year are incredible. They always have the right things to say and are always so precise. The understand me and know exactly what we need to do. I'm really enjoying it this year. I'm enjoying learning so much and I can't wait for more to come.”
Crashing out of the lead in a sodden race at Brno aside, Binder has shown few signs of strain at the head of the championship table in the season's second half. All in total contrast to early challenger Navarro.
The Spaniard's form has been in decline since Austria, and has registered a single tenth place in the past four races. Has Binder found this surprising?
“I don't know really. The thing is the pressure was on him to try and close down the championship. At the end of the day I tried to make sure I was in front of him in almost every session. It's not a mental game, but it's something that can play with your head a bit. I just try to give the 110 percent every weekend and I feel like I've done a good job until now. I want to carry on doing it this year.”
The 23-lap race in Misano was a study of coolness under pressure, as Binder explained his reasoning behind leaving the decisive move until turn 13 on the back straight.
“I knew we had two seconds [on third place] with about five laps to go. I said, 'OK, now it's time to see what Enea's got.' He had followed me from about the first five laps. I let him past and just followed. The rhythm dropped by about 0.6s, maybe even more. Then I knew the important thing was to wait and make sure the last lap worked out well.”
Asked why he had slowed at the beginning of the final lap Binder continued, “I knew I had to leave a gap [before turn ten]. I knew he wouldn't want to lead onto the back straight. So he went really slowly around the corner onto the back straight.
“If I had been next to him I would have had to have passed him. I knew if I didn't get passed him where I did, the next hairpin when you're behind a guy, you can push him out without any problems. So even if I didn't arrive in the slipstream I knew I'd be OK. I knew he was going to try in the last corner. I blocked the line off 110 percent so I knew there was no way through.”