When Brad Binder ran off track on lap 7 of his MotoGP debut at Jerez on Sunday, he not only dropped from seventh to last, but lost 26.365s compared to his previous lap.

The South African then recovered to 13th place by the time the chequered flag was waved but, incredibly, was only 29.640s behind race winner Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha).

In other words, without the 26 seconds lost in his earlier mistake, Binder had the pace on paper to finish 3.275s behind Quartararo, which would equate to second place!

"Brad was outstanding to be in the leading group until he saved his crash. His comeback and lap-times were amazing," said Red Bull KTM team manager Mike Leitner.

"I locked up the front wheel a bit and when I put the angle to keep the bike turning I lost the front," Binder explained. "I just managed to pick it up and took a trip through the gravel, which messed up my race obviously and left me 26 seconds down."

The former Moto3 world champion was also the fastest man on track in four of the last five laps and feels he had a chance of finishing in the top five.

To put that into perspective, no KTM rider has ever finished a dry MotoGP race in the top five.

However, Binder was quick to warn it's unlikely he could have set the same lap times if he was battling intensely with other riders.

"I had great pace, but I was riding around on my own," Binder explained.

"When you are behind the other guys there is dirty air and it’s quite different. It’s not just slipstream down the straight but it is also under braking; it pulls you in and you get sucked in when someone in front is braking, so it’s a bit different for sure.

"I believe looking at everything afterwards that I stand a good chance of finishing in the top five with my rhythm and that would have been fantastic, but it wasn't the reality!

"Also there is a lot more pressure when you are racing up-front with the top guys instead of 20 seconds behind and you can just chip away at it.

"[The mistake] is obviously super-disappointing but you have to be realistic; it is my first GP and mistakes are going to happen.

"I need to say sorry to my team because today we could have done a good job and taken a good result. At the end of the day we live and we learn. I made a mistake and I won’t do it again.

"Let’s keep our heads up, keep this work ethic going and see what we can do."

Binder had spent the early stages behind team-mate Pol Espargaro, who went on to equal KTM's best dry MotoGP finish with sixth place (+6.9s).

Espargaro believes he could have gone faster if he had been in clear air - rather than fighting with Andrea Dovizioso, Jack Miller and Franco Morbidelli - but feels the performance of all four KTM riders proves the RC16 is now 'in the game'.

"Now we are on the level of the others – at least here in Jerez, we need to see for the other races – and we are even faster [than it looked] because I felt that if I was alone then I could have been 2, 3 sometimes 4 tenths faster. I could have been in 37.8s-9s. That rhythm," Espargaro said.

"All the KTM riders were going fast. Brad is going very fast, Miguel [8th] and Iker [DNF] as well. All four KTMs on the grid are powerful and strong, especially on the race pace. We are in the game now."

Espargaro, who will join Repsol Honda next season, added: "We are faster everywhere! I promise you that we are faster on the brakes, faster on the entry, faster in the corner speed.

"We are just losing on the straight against the Ducati. Maybe they have a bit more traction and then there is the top speed. I’m not saying that to look good, but this is the truth. I tried to overtake [Dovi] but he always passed me back on the straight.

"It was the only place they were faster than me, everywhere else I could fight with them and my rhythm was faster today. By running wide and doing a mistake I was losing 6 tenths but after 2-3 corners I was back to 2 tenths.

"Honestly I felt faster than them today, but I could not overtake them: I mean, this is part of racing as well.

"With the Yamaha it was traction in small places, but every time Dovi pushed a bit harder and made a better lap-time we stuck with him and we were leaving Morbidelli behind. I cannot tell you in comparison to Maverick or Quartararo, but I felt stronger against Morbidelli.

"I lost the spot trying to overtake Miller in the last corner – same problem – he was accelerating a little bit better than me and his speed was faster, so I had to brake a bit later to overtake and the front tyre was super-hot on the last lap and in the last corner and Morbidelli took advantage, but he was not faster than us today."

Free practice for the second Jerez rounds starts on Friday morning.

 

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