Brad fractions of a second off the podium in #MalaysianGP Sprint Race
Back to the start for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. The final triple header of a frenetic 2023 brought the championship firstly to the Sepang International Circuit and where the paddock began the campaign with the first pre-season test nine months earlier. Trips to the renovated Lusail International Circuit in Qatar and the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia are still to come but MotoGP again had to deal with high temperatures and the humid tropical climate of Sepang, a short distance from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The track is not only very familiar to the riders and teams for the traditional shakedown test (although the grip levels and amount of rubber deposit on the asphalt mean significantly different conditions) but also for Sepang’s regularity on the world championship calendar, having first hosted a GP back in 1999. Wide, technical and distinctive for two long straights; Sepang is a decent test of man and machine acumen.
Podium potential for Red Bull KTM in the previous three overseas rounds meant that Brad Binder and teammate Jack Miller came to Malaysia confident of their chances and refreshed after the much-needed weekend respite. On Friday both riders eased directly into Q2 with lap-times that placed them into the top four through P1 where the top sixteen were split by just one second. On Saturday the Malaysian skies remained dry and bright for qualification and Q2 was tricky to negotiate with at least three crashes bringing out the yellow flags in the final minutes. Brad ended the chrono in 7th, half a second from Pole.
The Sprint lasted for 10 laps and it was Miller who caught the eye into Turn 1 as he made a fantastic start from 10th to nudge into the top five. He had Brad for company and the pair circulated together on the edge of a very close podium fight. Around the last circulation of Sepang, Brad pushed the RC16 to the limit and briefly seized 4th into the final corner but was nudged back at the finish and took 5th.
“Today was a bit more tricky than I expected. Qualifying was quite difficult as I had a lot of chatter and I was trying to manage it. 7th place was quite good but in the race I just didn’t have any rear grip. I think I was unlucky, and at least it’s better to have that situation today in the Sprint, rather than the Grand Prix tomorrow. I hope we can sort things out, get a bit better and fight for the podium at least.”