Experts reckon that some 60 000 youngsters start racing motorcycles on circuits throughout the world every year. All of them want to race in motorcycle grands prix one day.
About eight of them will eventually make it. And only two of those eight will ever win a motorcycle grand prix. Harsh statistics for a harsh sport, with unforgiving aspects, which include probable bankruptcy and possible dire injuries.
All of which makes 20-year-old South African Brad Binder an extraordinary young man. Binder currently leads this year’s Moto3 world championship, after scoring podium positions in all five of the year’s opening races.
More to the point, Binder has won the last two races, in Spain and France respectively, on his works Red Bull KTM Ajo. That made him the first South African to win a Motorcycle Grand Prix in 35 years.
Before him, the last such victor was Jon Ekerold, who won the 1981 Italian motorcycle grand prix. The intervening years saw many riders from these shores trying to “get over there” and break into the top ranks, inevitably defeated by the massive expense involved in buying European equipment with South African money.
That apart, you need to be really, really talented, repeatedly exhibiting your prowess, racecraft and bravery. If you can do that long enough to get noticed and stay lucky enough not to get injured, you might get to the point where a factory team signs you up and starts paying the bills.
That is where Binder currently finds himself. He moved to Europe in 2010, to contest the Red Bull Rookies Cup series – a ladder of opportunity used by most aspiring young racers in Europe.
That year, Binder took three Rookies podiums and finished fifth overall in the championship. His best moment came in Estoril in 2011, when he won the Red Bull Rookies race from pole position to chequered flag.
In 2012, Binder competed in the Moto3 championship for the RW Racing full-time, to finish 21st in the overall title chase. He ran with the Ambrogio Racing equipe in 2013, and improved his ranking to 13th overall.
In 2014, he stayed with the team, riding a Mahindra machine, as he reached the podium on two occasions. His consistent improvement earned him an invitation to join the respected Red Bull KTM Ajo team for 2015.
Given factory equipment, his progression continued, ending the year in sixth and scoring four podiums, including a second place in Malaysia. For the 2016 season he and the Red Bull KTM Ajo team remained together with spectacular results.
Given his results, plus his current form, local enthusiasts will naturally root for him to take this year’s Moto3 world title.