Red Bull KTM Factory Racing used tunnel vision at Motegi, and unveiled their advanced and reactive engineering arm to classify the KTM RC16s in 2nd and 4th thanks to the skills of Brad Binder and Jack Miller respectively. The South African was 5th fastest in qualifying and an undisputed runner-up during the fourteenth Grand Prix Sprint of the season, taking place in dry and warm conditions in Japan. Miller ran 3rd for most of the 12-lap race and crossed the line in 4th.
Many eyes stared into the Red Bull KTM pitbox when the doors rolled up on Friday. Both Brad Binder and Jack Miller were using updated versions of their RC16 prototype race bikes complete with chassis modifications used by test rider Dani Pedrosa on his run to 4th position at the recent San Marino Grand Prix. Binder was immediately up to speed around a short and looping 14-corner layout where he’d finished as runner-up the previous year. Miller was also fast from the first exits and both riders easily banked direct entry to Q2 during a sunny Friday Practice 2 session.
Binder set the mark late into P2 with a double fast lap blitz that shattered the eight-year-old lap record. The achievement left #33 firmly in 1st place and ready for the sessions on Saturday. After Q2 in similar conditions Binder was slender half a second from Pole Position but was upstaged by an almost perfect Miller who charged to 3rd place and was 0.182 of a second from P1.
The MotoGP Sprint was run over 12 laps during the afternoon. Miller and Binder charged into 2nd and 3rd during the opening corners. Binder passed his teammate and shadowed Jorge Martin. Miller valiantly defended the final podium spot until the last three laps but still finished a strong 4th. The Red Bull KTM team are optimistic of more trophies for the 24-lap Grand Prix on Sunday.
Brad Binder, 5th in qualification, 2nd in the Sprint: “I had a great start and dived into Turn 1 past a couple of guys on the inside. My plan was to get up to the front straightaway but the pace was incredible and I could not believe the lap-times we were doing. It was a good race though and I’m happy to be back on the podium. My boys did an amazing job and my bike has worked better than it has all year so let’s try again tomorrow.”
Jack Miller, 3rd in qualification, 4th in the Sprint: “That felt good. It was nice fighting with these boys. I ran into a little bit of an issue with the right side of the tire, especially the front, and was struggling to stop the bike, so I was doing what I could to protect my position. Finally, I had a little moment at the bottom of the hill and that opened the door. Generally, the bike is working really well and I’m happy with the performance. If we could just tidy-up a few little things and also my riding can be a bit better then I think we can do a really top job tomorrow.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “A very good weekend so far and it began with both of the guys going through to Q2. This morning Jack made a fantastic lap for the front row but Brad wasn’t 100% ready to push like he did on Friday but the Sprint showed us again how good he is. Jack did very well to get back with the leaders. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
- From KTM Factory Racing