While South Africa’s Brad Binder has been promoted with a view to driving Red Bull KTM to being competitive in MotoGP, he is not expected to immediately be among the leaders, but should be in the frame to possibly pick up a rookie of the year award.
MotoGP rookie of the year battle
Binder is one of three riders making their MotoGP debuts this season, and he should be quite familiar with both his rivals in the rookie of the year stakes.
Iker Lecuona – Red Bull KTM Tech 3
He might be in Red Bull’s number two team, but Lecuona has declared his intent to challenge Binder for the title of MotoGP Rookie of the Year in his first full season in the elite class.
On re-signing with the team for the 2021 MotoGP season, the 20-year-old Spaniard said: “I would like to truly thank Red Bull KTM Tech3 for the confidence they are placing in me for their 2021 project.
“I felt very good with the new RC16 from day one and the bike has really progressed from the configuration we used in the 2019 Valencia race.
“I think we can make some great races with this machine. Signing for 2021 gives me enough peace of mind to be able to fight for my goal of being Rookie of the Year. I feel like I’m in a great family here.”
Lecuona will be partnered by compatriot Pol Espargaro in his final year with the team before switching to Repsol Honda and linking up with reigning world champion Marc Marquez.
He got a preview of his first full campaign n MotoGP when he rode in his hometown Grand Prix at Valencia in the final race of 2019.
Alex Marquez – Repsol Honda Team
The brother of the six-time world champion much is expected of Alex Marquez and not just because of his legendary sibling.
Marquez and Binder duelled for the Moto2 title in 2019 in an absorbing battle which the Spaniard won by three points.
He will enjoy just one season in Honda’s top team after HRC confirmed the signing of Espargaro.
Alex will have one shortened season racing alongside his brother before dropping from the works team to LCR.
That uncertainty might affect Marquez’s ability compete against the relatively settled Red Bull Riders.
Brad Binder – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
After pre-season testing, Binder conceded that his past experience of the Grand Prix circuit counted for little in making the step-up to the elite class.
“One of the things I’ve been enjoying so much so far is just all the differences, you know once you’ve been in a category for three years, like in Moto2, when you arrive [at] a track you more or less know all the points, you know the lines, you have a good idea of what you need to do.
“But each time I’ve arrived at a different circuit with the MotoGP bike it has felt like a brand new circuit to me regardless of how many laps I’ve done there,” Binder told MotoGP.com.
Binder has adapted to different classes before winning a world title in Moto3 and competing for the Moto2 crown.
The first race of the season takes place at Jerez, a circuit Binder claimed his first victory at during his 2016 Moto3 Championship-winning season.