KTM's Binder ready to muscle in on Ducati's Mugello stranglehold

SA's Brad Binder ready to muscle in on Ducati's Mugello stranglehold

Francesco Bagnaia approaches his home Italian MotoGP this weekend nursing a broken ankle and defending a slender lead in the world championship as  Ducati eye another big pay day at their local track in the Tuscan hills.

KTM's Binder ready to muscle in on Ducati's Mugello stranglehold

Bagnaia, the defending champion, has blown hot and cold on his factory Ducati this term, with wins in two sprints and two races but a crash from pole at Le Mans last time out.

That fifth-lap tumble with Aprilia's Maverick Vinales left him with a broken ankle, but despite hobbling into Thursday's press conference on crutches he said he should be fine to race.

"I'm not 100 percent, I'm struggling more walking than riding, it shouldn't effect my race weekend.

"As an Italian this is a very special weekend."

He welcomes back his teammate Enea Bastianini, who with luck will line up on the grid on Sunday for his first race of the season after damaging his shoulder in the season-opening weekend in Portugal.

Marco Bezzecchi, riding the Ducati of retired MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi's VR46 team, took the honours in France to move to within one point of his compatriot Bagnaia in the riders' standings.

Ducati riders occupy the first six places in the championship - the one exception being KTM's in-form Brad Binder.

A rousing win from 15th on the grid in the sprint in Argentina was followed by another sprint success in Spain and a battling second in the race itself at Jerez.

- 'Full of confidence' -

That's lifted the South African into third in the championship, only 13 points behind Bagnaia.

Understandably the 27-year-old arrives in Mugello in the mood to disrupt Ducati's Tuscan lovefest.

"I'm going into Mugello full of confidence, feeling really good, I really think we've got the legs on those Ducatis and I think we can be really strong," he told motogp.com.

"In the past you'd have to say Ducati but now since KTM have brought us this new package it's very different and I honestly think Mugello is going to be a track where it's going to be a lot better for us."

Binder, the 2016 Moto3 world champion, is gunning for his third win in the premier class and first since Austria in 2021.

"With the package KTM have given us it's definitely the best bike we've ever had by a long way.

"So an exciting weekend coming up for me, I think we can do something good, so fingers crossed," he said.

One rider not expecting fireworks this weekend is six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, who won the first of his 85 wins across all categories at Mugello way back in 2010.

The Honda star, on his return from injury sustained in a first-lap crash in Portugal, was running a strong second to Bezzecchi in France until he slid off the track on the penultimate lap.

"Le Mans - I enjoyed it a lot, especially the pace was better than I expected.

"I'm back to my top level but here we will struggle more on this circuit," said the Spaniard.

The sixth round of the 2023 campaign is the first of three consecutive weekends with the MotoGP circus moving on to Germany next weekend and then Assen, before a six-week break.


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