‘The others make a bigger step’ - can KTM ‘figure out’ qualifying?

Brad Binder has clawed his way back up to fifth in the MotoGP World Championship standings, despite being just 17th in terms of qualifying performance.
Brad Binder, German MotoGP race, 19 June
Brad Binder, German MotoGP race, 19 June

No other MotoGP rider has such an extreme (+12 places) jump between their qualifying and race results this season.

Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia, for example, has a five-place swing in the other direction, leading the ‘best qualifier’ award - which assigns points for qualifying in the same way as race results (25 for pole, 20 for second etc) - and sixth in the world championship.

Meanwhile, Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro is currently second in both tables and just one point behind Bagnaia for qualifying, with Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo top of the world championship and tied with Espargaro for Saturday time attack form.

Even Suzuki, renowned for its qualifying struggles in recent seasons, is 'only' +6 places (qualifying to race points) for Alex Rins and 9th in both rankings for Joan Mir.

So why such a big difference for Binder?

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A look at Binder’s Red Bull KTM team-mate Miguel Oliveira underlines that the RC16 is clearly missing something in qualifying spec, with the Portuguese ranked just 18th in the best qualifier award and tenth in the world championship (+8 places, the next biggest after Binder).

“It is what it is. We need to be realistic. That's our level in qualifying,” Binder confirmed after riding from 15th on the grid to seventh place in Germany. “That's what we can extract from our soft tyres, on what we have at the moment.

“The [others] make a bigger step basically. It seems like the other guys can take more advantage on braking and entry, but when we put in new tyres we struggle to take a big advantage.

“Because, OK we have more grip, but we lose a lot of turning at the same time. So I think we just need to figure out a way that can help our qualifying a little bit for sure.

“Our bike seems to work well over race distance, or better than it does in a qualifying situation for sure. But places like [Sachsenring] where you have a really soft qualifying tyre really make our lives more difficult.

Brad Binder, German MotoGP race, 19 June
Brad Binder, German MotoGP race, 19 June

“It's not easy for any of us at the minute, but every weekend it's becoming more and more clear what we need and what the guys can do to take us to that next level.

“To get that last 5-6% of what you need is not easy. It's hard to find that little step we’re looking for at the minute and I think the really important thing is the guys are being really particular in what they're going to bring, and they are making sure that whatever they bring is going to really touch our problems.

“So I’m happy with all the work going on behind the scenes," he insisted.

Binder, who finished second in the Qatar season-opener, has qualified 7th, 4th, 12th, 17th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 16th, 15th and 15th so far this season, for an average of 13th on the grid.

The South African’s race results are: 2nd, 8th, 6th, 12th, DNF, 10th, 8th, 7th, 8th and 7th, for an average of 8th place at the chequered flag.

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