Brad Binder went from his toughest MotoGP event so far to the top of the timesheets in the space of five days at Misano.

The South African rookie, who stunned with KTM's debut premier-class victory in Brno, crossed the finish line in 12th place at last Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix.

But it wasn't just Binder that struggled; no RC16 rider finished in the top nine for the first time this season.

"I think the main thing here is the huge level of grip," Binder explained after Friday practice. "If I look back then Jerez, with that heat, had super-shocking [low] grip in the afternoons. Brno in general had a very low grip. I think this is the first track we have come to where the grip is level and there is almost no tyre drop from the first lap to the end.

"You saw guys putting in their quickest laps in the last five laps of the race, whereas at the other tracks the drop was a couple of seconds from the first to the last. I think that’s a little bit why we have been struggling more.

"I’m just glad we seem to have made a step forward for this week because last week was tough for all of us KTMs. It seems we are much stronger on this first day. Unfortunately, it was tough for me last Sunday. I wish it hadn’t been that way. We just have to take it and try to make this weekend better."

Day one certainly couldn't have gone much better on paper, with Binder fastest of all after tucking in behind Maverick Vinales for a late flying lap that put him just 0.002s clear of Takaaki Nakagami (Honda).

But while team-mate Pol Espargaro had climbed the timesheets to fourth during Tuesday's test, it was only during FP2 that the pieces fell into place for Binder.

 "I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike in the last two exits of FP2," Binder said.

"We made a big change in the way I could stop the bike and it’s an advantage. When I crack the throttle I had the grip ready there. It’s something we found in the second exit of FP2 and I had more than 20 laps on the S rear tyre and I felt much better with it, more grip.

"Then when we put in the new tyre I really felt that advantage. So tomorrow I’m looking forward to going out and keeping that confidence that I have; if I can use that feeling I have on the brakes and also the first touch of gas when the tyre drops a little bit.

"But, you know, I have been super-stuck and struggling to feel good. It’s been a tough few days for me so I needed today and I will try and take confidence to go into tomorrow."

While Binder's best lap came while chasing Vinales, who was on pole position for Yamaha last weekend, his next best lap was only 0.215s slower.

"Yeah, I had a good opportunity there [behind Vinales]. It was awesome to see. Some things were great, like he was able to carry a lot of corner speed through those flowing corners which is a bit more difficult for me at this stage," Binder explained.

"But in the tighter corners I felt a bit more stronger in the braking zone. It was cool to see we had almost two different ways to do the lap time."

Binder's fluctuating race results, which have varied between 13th and 1st so far this season, mean he has now slipped to eighth in the world championship.

"Each time I go to a new track it is difficult so I want to try and learn as much as I can and take the maximum out of each opportunity I have," he said. "At the end of the year if that means finishing 12th in the championship or fifth or whatever the result is, I want to learn as much as I can to go into next year strong."

One of four new race winners already this season, Binder is also revelling in the 2020 MotoGP shake-up.

"I like to see it. MotoGP has been very static for many years. Those same guys always at the front," he said. "It’s really nice because when I look through the timesheets it’s guys that I have raced against since 2012 when I started like Fabio, Taka, Miguel, Mir, Alex Marquez. Bagnaia on the podium again.

"We have grown up together racing in all the categories and it is nice to see all of us in MotoGP together. It’s cool and makes the future look positive for us."

Backing up Binder's Friday form was Espargaro in fifth (+0.071s) and Tech3's Miguel Oliveira in eighth (+0.337s).

 

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