RNF: Binder's Moto3 fightbacks mean potential for 'something magical' in MotoGP

RNF team principal Razlan Razali explains moving Darryn Binder straight from Moto3 to MotoGP this year, recalls background to Fabio Quartararo signing in 2018.
Darryn Binder, Jerez MotoGP test, 18 November 2021
Darryn Binder, Jerez MotoGP test, 18 November 2021
© Gold and Goose

Darryn Binder's ability to fight through the Moto3 field on an underpowered Honda was one of the main attributes that prompted Razlan Razali's new RNF Yamaha team to sign the South African for MotoGP this season.

Binder, younger brother of KTM MotoGP race winner Brad, took just two podiums on his way to seventh in the world championship for Razali's former SRT squad in 2021.

That has naturally been compared with the ten podiums, including six wins, and title runner-up achieved by Jack Miller in 2014, the only previous occasion that a rider has jumped straight from Moto3 to MotoGP.

Opinions about Binder's unusual move have been mixed but Miller has backed the 23-year-old to succeed, adding that a MotoGP chance is also too rare to turn down.

"If you've got the opportunity, why not take it and if anyone can do it, I think it's Daz," Miller said. "He's got that wild style, he can ride a bike when it's moving around and he's got plenty more experience on bigger bikes than I had when I moved to MotoGP, he's ridden Superbikes and 600s and stuff like that."

At the other end of the spectrum, Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro found the decision 'very strange' and 'bizarre'.

The debate over whether Binder is ready for the premier-class, and indeed if some kind of super license system is needed to vet potential MotoGP riders, increased when he was involved in a title-deciding Moto3 clash with Dennis Foggia at Portimao.

However, the #40 helped calm the atmosphere with a competent debut test at Jerez in November, albeit with one sizeable fall when his tyres lost temperature after slowing down to let another rider overtake.

Darryn Binder, Moto3 race, British MotoGP, 29 August 2021
Darryn Binder, Moto3 race, British MotoGP, 29 August 2021
© Gold and Goose
Razali highlighted the way Binder consistently fought back from an average qualifying position of eleventh in Moto3 last season, despite a straight-line deficit, as among the reasons for believing he has the potential to do 'something magical' on the A-Spec M1.

"What we saw with Darryn for the one year he was with us [at SRT] is a very good attitude, very disciplined, a nice person – okay, being a nice person does not make you win! – but with his physical build he is too big for a Moto3 and Honda's Moto3 has a power disadvantage compared to the KTM. That was very clear," Razali told Crash.net.

"So he had that disadvantage. But the way he fought back every race; within 1-2 laps he was already in the front group. He was overtaking on the inside, outside. It was unlucky for him to crash into Dennis Foggia [at Portimao].

"But the way he raced last year we thought if this guy is given an opportunity on a bigger bike, a package like Yamaha, he can do something magical. So that's the potential that we saw in him."

Another reason for betting on Binder alongside the vastly experienced Andrea Dovizioso - who takes over from Valentino Rossi as the oldest rider on the MotoGP grid - was the desire to try and unearth another rising star to follow in the wheeltracks of factory Yamaha's newly crowned champion Fabio Quartararo.

The Frenchman made his MotoGP debut with SRT in 2019 as team-mate to Franco Morbidelli, who has also now been promoted to the official Monster Yamaha team.

"We want to maintain the fact that we are a development team for the factory team," Razali said. "We've shown that with both factory riders this year coming from the satellite team. And finally Yamaha agreed with that direction. And also with what Ducati is doing and KTM is doing, I think Yamaha has to do the same thing.

"One of the keys is not to look at us just as a customer team, we are a development team for the factory. In 2020 we were second in the world championship. Last year, we were second last. I don’t think Yamaha wants to see us second last. It just misrepresents the fact that the Yamaha is a good machine. They just relied on one rider [Quartararo].

"So I think the support that we've got [at RNF] from Yamaha is much better. Both riders are contracted to the factory. And Yamaha agree with our philosophy to develop at least one young rider. So the decision with Darryn is not just coming from us. Yes we pushed it, but it's a collective decision together with the Japanese."

RNF: Binder's Moto3 fightbacks mean potential for 'something magical' in MotoGP

'No real formula for getting a guy like Fabio'

SRT's decision to hire Quartararo for their debut premier-class seasons proved one of the most inspired signings in recent MotoGP memory.

Despite only one (official) win in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, Quartararo was soon a consistent frontrunner in MotoGP, finishing his and SRT's stunning rookie season with seven podiums, six poles and fifth in the world championship.

Three race victories and a championship challenge followed for Quartararo in 2020, before a move to Monster Yamaha and world championship glory in 2021.

Had Quartararo not signed for SRT, it’s very likely that France would still be waiting for its first premier-class title winner.

Asked to cast his mind back to 2018, when searching for rider to join Morbidelli after Dani Pedrosa elected to retire, Razali admitted SRT initially had no idea they had struck gold in signing Quartararo. Razali's first forecast was that Quartararo would be able to do 'the same or better' as the results achieved by Hafizh Syahrin, then completing his debut season on a satellite Yamaha at Tech3.

"I think it's a combination of being at the right place, right time and lady luck. There's no real formula for getting a guy like Fabio," Razali explained.

"When Dani [Pedrosa] decided to retire, I remember Johan [Stigefelt] and I were sitting down and trying to figure out who is on the rider list. That was at the Barcelona round that Fabio won on the Speed Up and Stiggy said 'what about this guy?'

"I had my own theory on how he would do because we'd put Hafizh Syahrin in Tech3 [that year] and I thought this guy can be the same or better. That was our only conclusion! So I said, 'why not? Let's do it.'

"So we got lucky and I'm happy for Fabio, happy he came from us. Just imagine if we didn't chose him? I wonder where he would have gone...

"It’s great to be part of his journey to becoming world champion and we're even prouder that this year both riders in the factory Yamaha team, Fabio and Frankie, have come from the satellite team for the first time."

The new RNF team, which replaces SRT, will unveil its 2022 team livery in Verona, Italy on Monday.

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