Brad Binder got the new MotoGP season off to a difficult start in March, finishing 14th in Qatar after entering race day at a lowly 19th on the grid. However, it is no coincidence that every time he has hit a rough patch in his career to date, Binder has always bounced back.
Born in Potchefstroom, Binder moved to Europe aged 12 to pursue his MotoGP dream. Last year, it finally came to fruition as he shone in his first premier class season.
Having grown up idolising Valentino Rossi, who is surely the most famous motorbike racer of all time, Binder now has the privilege of racing against him and even occasionally beating the Italian superstar.
In the recently-released Brad Binder Reflections 2.0, Binder recalls how low he felt after the first two races of last season, his first in MotoGP. Binder finished 13th in the Spanish grand prix and crashed out of the next race in Andalusia.
"I felt lower than low that whole week going into Brno, just purely because I messed up my first two races. I wiped out a fellow KTM rider [Miguel Oliveira] and I felt like an idiot," he says in the documentary.
Heading into the third race of the season in the Czech Republic, Binder decided to focus on what he could control. "My only goal going into that race was to do a perfect race, super clean – not make one mistake from the beginning to the end," he says.
As it turned out, that race went better than anyone could have anticipated as Binder became the first rider to win a race in his debut MotoGP season since Marc Márquez in 2013. For context, Márquez went on to win six premier class world championships and counting.
Binder, who eventually won Rookie of the Year in 2020, has risen from the ashes many times before. His 2016 Moto3 World Championship win was spectacular, but it came in his fifth season in that class. It took another three in Moto2 before he finally reached the promised land of MotoGP.
"It's been difficult. It's been a long, hard road to get here, for sure. There have been moments when I thought it was all over," he told me last year in an interview for ESPN.
"Somehow, we [Binder and his support structure] have managed to put things together and made this whole dream a reality."
Some sporting champions are born primarily out of natural talent. Take, for instance, Márquez, Lionel Messi or Eden Hazard. Work ethic is necessary to sustain success, but a certain spark enabled all of these athletes to reach astronomical levels of performance early in their careers.
There exists another kind of champion, moulded in the depths of adversity and repeated disappointment. They have to build their empires brick by brick rather than in one fell swoop and there is often the internalised fear that they could come crashing down at any minute – a thought which drives much of their success.
This category includes Jamie Vardy, Duane Vermeulen, Makazole Mapimpi. To that illustrious list, I believe we will one day add Binder.
A life almost solely dedicated to his craft finally led the rising Red Bull KTM star to the top step of the MotoGP podium two days before he turned 25 – and yet Reflections 2.0 shows us that he still has not stopped learning, owning up to mistakes, and growing from them.
Towards the end of the documentary, Binder pays tribute to his younger brother, Darryn, who began the Moto3 season with a third-place finish.
As far as role models go, Darryn is blessed to have grown up with one of MotoGP's very best.
- Brad Binder Reflections 2.0 is available to stream on Showmax