Cape Town - When I heard I’d be interviewing Brad Binder in Cape Town, it was as if I’d been told I just won the national lottery!
I mean, it’s Brad Binder! The 2016 Moto3 champion! The guy who won the title by the biggest margin in Moto3 history! The guy who would stop at the side of the track, let everyone pass him by and then ride to victory; just for kicks!
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating that last point a bit, but Binder was on absolute fire in 2016. And his talent, skill and determination landed him a seat in Moto2 for 2017.
Sit-down with the champ
Needless to say the excitement was rife when I pitched up at the Red Bull HQ here in Cape Town. From the reception area I peeked through the open-plan work area, trying to see if I could catch a glimpse of the man of the moment. A glimpse of the South African champion.
Then I saw a guy sitting at a desk, cap pulled down low over his eyes, playing with his cellphone. And thanks to the cast around his broken arm, I just knew that it was Brad "The Champ" Binder.
READ: Proudly SA - World champ Brad Binder finishes Moto3 career in style
Being led to the interview space, my cameraman and I set up our equipment and waited on Binder to grace us with his presence. And then he came. Walking in with his Red Bull energy drink and broken arm, Binder greeted us and casually sipped his drink while the mic was being penned to his shirt.
“This is actually happening!” I was screaming in my mind as the guy who had me on my feet throughout 2016 sat in the chair across me. Whether it is just his media responsibilities or not, I am about to interview one of South Africa’s biggest and greatest sporting exports.
This is a dream come true. This is excitement coming to life. This is being unable to hide your smile.
An interview with Brad Binder
I could see he is tired. Binder, that is. Following the last race of the season he broke his left arm while testing his new bike for 2017. 150kg of metal came pounding down on him after he lost control of the bike during the last session on the last day of testing.
But just like this past season he fought through the challenges and gave one heck of an interview. Like only Brad Binder can.
READ: 'Make time for a braai' - SA champ Brad Binder's 4 steps to success
Binder was only 12 when he moved to Europe to pursue a career in motor racing. He was barely in school when he started out driving go-karts, and soon made the switch to bikes. But don’t think because he is living it up in Europe that he likes it. Binder is a South African and he wants nothing more than to return home whenever he can.
He notes that at first it was difficult finding his feet in a new country - and especially at that age - but that he realised that if the sacrifices of leaving your country, family and friends behind is going to work, he’d need to get his mind into the game. And that same mind set is what landed him his championship.
Of course Binder wants to carry his championship winning momentum into Moto2, but the champ is well aware that it is not as easy as it seems. He said, while sipping on his Red Bull: “Going into Moto2 it’s gonna be… interesting. It’s gonna be tough. Everybody that goes from Moto3 to Moto2 really struggles at the beginning.”
Binder says that he is fully aware that success in the category will not come over night and that he is more than prepared to gradually build into it. If he finishes his first race in 20th place, he says, there’s a lot of work to do. But if he finishes the first race in tenth place, “all right, we’re a bit closer to where I wanna be.”
Following in Binder’s footsteps
Binder is no doubt an inspiration to young South African riders - a role model of note and a living embodiment that South Africans have what it takes to compete at international levels. So it was inevitable that I’d ask him how local riders can take the sport they love to the next level.
Binder said: “One of the best ways for riders to get recognised overseas is to get into the Red Bull MotoGP Rookie’s Cup. Especially for a South African it’s an incredible way to try and become a MotoGP rider.”
WATCH: Relive SA's Brad Binder winning the Moto3 title
This series, says Binder, was what ‘gifted’ him the opportunities he is currently enjoying and he encourages young riders to do the same.
The 2017 MotoGP season kicks off in Qatar on March 26.
5 Bonus questions
1. Best/worst moment of the season?
BB: Best is winning the championship in Aragon. Worst is crashing out of the lead in Brno.
2. Own any cars or bikes?
BB: I have a Jeep Wrangler… with big wheels! And in Spain I drive around in a van.
3. Did you play “ExciteBike” when you were a kid?
BB: Never heard of “ExciteBike”, so probably not.
4. Ever had a fist-fight on track?
BB: No, but in the box, maybe…
5. Have you considered moving to a different discipline?
BB: No, never.