MotoGP fans the world over want to know how Binder walks with balls that big. What he did last night was something you’ll not see often. Not only did he continue in the rain on a MotoGP bike shod with slicks, he also revealed in his post-race interview that he had no brakes. The carbon discs had cooled in the downpour and he effectively rode the last three laps with no stoppers as well as no tyre tread.
And he won. And it was glorious.
It was truly a race that had everything, and if you could watch those last four laps in a seated position, check yourself for a pulse.
The weekend began with all sorts of controversy, and all of it surrounded Maverick Vinales. In the wake of his rev-bombing performance at the last round, Yamaha had “withdrawn” his entry in this round – and was looking at ways to send him further on down the road. It has four options in this regard.
One – it can sanction Vinales for one race, and then move on with the rest of the season pretending nothing happened.
Two – it can pay out his contract, make him sit out the rest of the season, and give his ride to someone else.
Three – Sack him, don’t pay out his contract, but cut him loose to ride with whomever he wants.
Four – cover him in meat-juice and set wild dogs on him.
Any guesses which option Lin Jarvis might be leaning towards?
For his part, Maverick came to the track, spoke briefly with Lin, then adjourned to Turn Three with some mates to watch the Friday Practice sessions. The following day, he spoke to the press. He said he was sorry, and blamed his bizarre bike-revving behaviour to “frustration” and “nerves”.
The silence from Yamaha was stony. I don’t think it will ever forgive Vinales. Not the rev-bombing so much as the accusations of sabotage. It is unconscionable for a rider to accuse his team of such a thing – especially a Japanese team who takes the Bushido stuff rather seriously.
But I have no doubt we will know more about Maverick’s future after the lawyers all have their meetings.
Michelin also had a meeting after Oliveira’s tyre de-laminated the previous round. It mothballed its asymmetric soft front, and replaced it with a regular symmetric soft front that it had offered the riders before.
Savadori didn’t care. He had a broken ankle thanks to Marquez’s flame-kissed crash the previous Sunday, and may miss another round.
But Zarco cared – about everything. He arrived determined to bang, and bang he did in FP1, setting a new track record of 1:22.827.
FP2 was wet, much like it was the week before, and lightning was hitting parts of the track. Plastic was hitting the sides of Marquez’s tank as HRC was doing whatever it could to make his time on the bike easier. The plastic stuck to the sides of Marc’s petrol tank looked like a larger version of those non-slip inserts you can fit to your bike to afford your thighs a better purchase. Presumably this is to take some of the stress off Marc’s endlessly healing arm by letting him use his knees to brace against deceleration.
The track started to dry out in FP2 with some 12 minutes left in the session. This was enough time for Mir to lose his shit when Marquez dive-bombed him in a corner as a payback for Mir’s aggression the previous week.
Before the end of the session, we heard Petrucci had been offered a ride in Dakar from KTM, and we saw Iker Lecuona stick on some slicks and set a very fast time.
FP3 saw the satellite KTM come out with snazzy new tailpieces that looked like tongue-depressors, and FP4 saw Marquez slide off in Turn 3, while Jorge Martin high-sided at 10-km/h while already in the gravel.
I also noticed Suzuki had adopted an interesting new starting technique with both Mir and Rins. The garage screens would open and the bike with the rider aboard would emerge into pitlane with a tech running beside it, holding the starting machine engaged with the engine. I’m keen to see that go hilarious wrong sometime soon.
The eventual pole-sitter, Jorge Martin, hauled himself brilliantly out of Q1 to blitz his way through Q2 to the front of the grid for race day.
When Q2 arrived, two records fell in two laps. Fabulous demolished Zarco’s record first with a 1:22.677, then Martin went even faster with a 1:22.643. Times were sizzlingly close for the entire grid. A measly 1.3 seconds separated Martin on pole from Rossi in 18th.
When they gridded up on Sunday to wonderfully packed grandstands, everyone was looking at the sky. Rain was coming. Big purple thunderheads were rolling in through the alps.
The race was declared Dry, but that meant nothing. MotoGP races from flag to flag. It’s up to the rider to decide when he comes in for a wet or dry bike.
They all went out on slicks, with Marquez opting for a soft rear in the belief he would be back in for rain tyres before his tyre gave way. And when the lights went out, Martin was first into Turn One, while Fabulous ran Zarco wide, allowing Bagnaia to grab second spot. And then suddenly he was in the lead because Fabulous was not finished bouncing off people, and fed Martin some of his fairing. Marquez was also well up with the front runners, and then the White Flag came out, indicating riders could now return to the pits and switch bikes.
The field pressed on. No-one wanted wet tyres yet. Bagnaia led from Martin, then Zarco, Marquez, Fabulous, and Miller. Binder was back in eighth and Mir was in seventh, when some jockeying for positions began. The riders could see the weather was going to turn very, very soon, and race position was crucial.
Miller passed Fabulous for fifth, Zarco found himself in third, with Mir and Binder charging hard, until Binder ran wide along with Aleix Espargaro. Marquez then shot past Martin to grab third, and started to look like the pre-busted Marquez everyone has been waiting for.
Zarco had caught Bagnaia at the front, and Marquez was not letting either of them get a break. Likewise, Martin was not letting Marquez off the hook, either.
I wiggled to the edge of my chair, entranced by the seething tension on the track. Fabulous passed Miller, Marquez passed Zarco for second, then Martin passed Zarco under brakes and set off after Marquez…and I was running out of chair-edge to perch on.
Three laps in and Martin bitched Marquez into Turn Four, and was now threatening Bagnaia. Behind these first three came Zarco and Fabulous, with a small 0.7 gap back to Miller in sixth. Then Fabulous passed Zarco and grabbed fourth. And I stood up. I watched the rest of the race standing up.
A lap later, just as Martin started to threaten Bagnaia, Marquez passed Martin, but Martin was having none of that and served him right back two corners later. Binder was also moving forward, and relegated Mir back to eighth.
Then Martin grabbed the lead, ran wide, and allowed both Bagnaia and Marquez past, and then a charging Fabulous as well. And we were only six laps in.
On the seventh lap, Bagnaia was back in the lead, followed by Marquez, Fabulous, Martin, and Zarco. Then it was Marc’s turn to muff a corner, and Fabulous and Martin went past him, clean and hard – and very, very bravely.
Then Martin let Marquez past in Turn Six – and I was riveted to the screen. It was almost like a crazy Moto3 race. Miller in sixth was catching Zarco, and Fabulous was catching Bagnaia in first.
And out came the rain flags (white with a red cross) – and things got very crazy very quickly, but only briefly. The full crazy would not come until four laps from the end.
Fabulous flew past Bagnaia, who was now in the clutches of Marquez in third. But Fabulous being Fabulous, ran wide in Turn One, and it was now Bagnaia and Marquez one and two, as the rain started to come down.
But then the rain eased, despite Marquez praying it would bucket down. His soft rear tyre only had so many laps left, and it was during these prayers that Fabulous went past him to grab second.
Things seemed to settle down for a bit and I considered sitting down again. Bagnaia led from Fabulous, Marquez, Martin, Zarco and Miller, but the clouds kept on rolling in. There was no way this was going to last. I stayed standing.
The laps ticked on by, and Mir scythed past Miller in Turn Six, while the front-runners remained well-mannered and steady in their efforts. Small gaps started to open as the clouds miraculously held back. Bagnaia was 0.4-seconds ahead of Fabulous and Marquez, and there was a second gap back to Martin, Zarco, and Mir.
I sat down. Then I stood up again. Fabulous was closing on Bagnaia and dragging Marquez with him. Martin was now more than a second behind them. Binder was also starting to work. He passed Miller to grab sixth, which is probably why he wasn’t hit in the face with Bastianini’s motorcycle fairing when it parted company with his bike.
Enea subsequently went to sit dejectedly in his garage, from where he got to see Zarco’s high-speed off at Turn Nine, and a solid restructuring of the championship ladder.
Ten laps from the end, Fabulous once again muffed a corner, and Marquez found himself in second behind Bagnaia, while Miller started slowly riding backwards and was now in eighth.
The rain flags were out for serious now as both the rain and Marquez started to get serious. Bagnaia and Marquez had eked out a 0.4 gap to Fabulous, and they were all almost 2.5-seconds ahead of Martin in fourth.
With six laps left, Miguel Oliveira crashed in Turn One and went home to rub his new wife’s pregnant belly, while Marquez redoubled his efforts on his rapidly fading soft tyre.
This was when Miller and Rins decided to go and get their wet bikes – and chaos ensued on the track. It was seriously raining now, and MotoGP bikes with slicks are handfuls in those conditions. Positions changed, people wobbled around tentatively, or charged madly, and it was impossible to sit down.
On the next lap, with Marquez now in the lead, the leading pack also trooped into the pits to swap bikes.
But not Binder. No, not Binder. He carried on. Aleix Espargaro behind him, with Rossi in third.
And the rain came down, while Binder with no brakes and no grip skated his way around the final three laps with his fellow gamblers. It was impossible he would finish. Surely he would crash. Surely Rossi would now get his 200th podium?
Behind them, Bagnaia and Martin, now with rain tyres, were scything through the field, lapping 25-seconds faster than the blokes who decided to gamble on their slicks. Marquez crashed on rain tyres in Turn One on his first lap out.
Binder was not going to be caught. He was just too far in front. He even got a three-second penalty for exceeding track limits on the last corner. It made no difference. He still won.
Bagnaia and Martin rocketed their way into second and third respectively, but the glory was all Binder’s.
“That was scary!” he grinned in his post-race interview, shuffling his feet and hefting cags the size of planets.
For his part, Rossi stole a bit of Binder’s thunder by acknowledging his manifold yellow-smoking fans.
The Austrians paid tribute to The Doctor with a fly-past of a helicopter bearing a giant flag of Rossi.
This is a scene set to be repeated at every circuit, as MotoGP salutes arguably its greatest rider, but it really takes nothing away from Binder’s Herculean effort.
There is now a two-week break before we go to Silverstone to find out just how unshakable Fabulous’s championship lead really is.
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.