KTM pulls off stunning first-ever MotoGP win
Should the rest of the field be sweating? In only its fourth season at the top level of road racing, Austrian manufacturer KTM has won its first race – with rookie rider Brad Binder also delivering South Africa's first race winner in MotoGP history.
MotoGP has been utterly dominated by Japanese giants Honda and Yamaha for the last 40 years. In fact, if you leave out Casey Stoner's remarkable championship for Ducati in 2007, you have to go back to 1982 to find another company taking the constructors' championship, and it's another Japanese company in Suzuki.
The huge budgets required to run these top-level race teams tend to exclude smaller, less diversified companies from serious contention. But yesterday's race at Brno gave a glimmer of hope for some new blood at the top of the podium, as rookie rider Brad Binder took a remarkable win in just his third race in MotoGP, methodically stalking Franco Morbidelli's Yamaha and exploiting the KTM RC16's braking prowess to slip past and win in runaway fashion as the Yamaha's rear tire degraded.
"Honestly, right now, I’m lost for words," said Binder after the race. "I’ve dreamt of this since I was a little boy and today it came true. It is amazing to win my first GP [in MotoGP]. Thank you to everybody who supported me, and the whole team: they put an insane motorcycle beneath me today! I didn’t know if we could win but I knew we would have a go."
Crazier still, it actually looked like the Red Bull KTM team would take an unthinkable 1-2 victory, until Pol Espargaro bounced off third place winner Johann Zarco's Ducati and trashed his bike in the gravel. The two KTM bikes were clearly a cut above the rest of the field, a testament to the company's development team given that its bikes were reliably at the back of the grid just a few years ago and had only ever claimed one podium before, in the bucketing rain of Valencia in 2018.
Still, while KTM is a newcomer to MotoGP, it has formidable form in the broader scope of racing. Living up to its brand motto "Ready to Race," KTM has been a dominant force in off-road racing for decades, winning hundreds of world championships in motocross, super enduro, supercross, the Dakar and many other categories. In road racing, KTM made a huge splash in Moto3, with no other brand managing to win a race in this furiously competitive class in 2013.
Binder's historic win in Brno has shown the Austrians can also build and develop a race bike at the very highest level, in a hurry. It's a rude shock to the established order of things. Honda looks absolutely adrift with its champion Marc Marquez out injured; nobody else seems to be able to ride the RC213V. Meanwhile, Yamaha is in the uncomfortable position of having its Petronas satellite bikes regularly beating its factory riders. The championship looks wide open, and while nobody is picking KTM for a title, this company has just shown the world a shocking glimpse of front wheel.