When a group of mates, colleagues or enthusiasts inevitably come together and begin to review and argue about the year that was in the coming days, then surely Brad Binder should be in that discussion as one of the best-performing South African sport stars in 2023.
The 28-year-old didn’t win anything on race day in MotoGP this year, but his consistency, tenacity and single-mindedness in the main event at the highest level remains admirable – and, moreover, inspirational for a nation desperately seeking hope.
Despite his failure to stand on the top step of the podium this season, the Red Bull KTM rider’s stats remain impressive.
He finished fourth, quite comfortably, in the elite category of riders, and was only bested by three contenders competing on the dominant Ducatis this year.
His level of dependability almost single-handedly ensured that his team finished second in the constructors’ championship, also behind Ducati.
In MotoGP, riders who finish in the top 15 are awarded points, but only the highest-placed rider in a team collects constructors’ points for the team.
In the 20 races – all of which the KTM factory team participated in this year – Binder failed to be that rider on only six occasions, out-scoring his teammate Jack Miller in every other race.
He failed to secure a finish in the top 15 on just four occasions, retiring only three times.
He finished fifth or better in 10 of the races and climbed the podium in five of those events. His best finishes this year were second-place finishes at the Spanish and Austrian GP.
Admittedly, Miller was new to the KTM set-up and never really got to grips with the RB16, but when comparing the Australian’s record this season to his South African counterpart, the revelation of how good Binder was begins to tell.
Miller had one top-five finish, also in Spain ... behind Binder, but did not finish on five occasions and was outside the top 15 a further time.
In the team standings (the combined results of the two riders) KTM finished fourth – again behind a gang of Ducatis – on 456 points, with Binder scoring 64% of that total.
Binder also had some brilliant moments in the abbreviated sprint before the GP. He scored two first places and a handful of podiums, too – a further five, in fact. Miller did so on only one occasion.
His Argentinian GP sprint, in particular, was magnificent. He started the sprint at the Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo in 17th, only to go on to claim a victory that exhibited all of his skills and talents. It is surely one of the highlights of the year in the sport.
For sure, it was frustrating that he was unable to secure victory in 2023, adding to the two he had already bagged previously.
But he was constantly competing, constantly making his rivals see him as a threat, and constantly eking out a result.
Binder, one might argue, operates in a niche sport – one much smaller than football, rugby and cricket in the country – and will only arguably receive recognition of the masses that he deserves if he wins again or becomes a world champion.
But there is certainly an assertion to be made that he remains on of SA’s best sporting stars this year and an ambassador of our nation.
He should receive appreciation as such.