LONDON: Brad Binder went into his rookie MotoGP season expecting to crash and learn from his mistakes, possibly with some pain involved.
What the 25-year-old had not bargained for was becoming the first South African to win in MotoGP in only his third race in the top category and after a 13th place and retirement in the previous outings.
Binder's Czech Grand Prix victory in August stands out in a crazy season with eight different winners to date and a championship leader, Suzuki's Spaniard Joan Mir, who has yet to join them.
"It wasn’t expected, which was the best part," Binder told Reuters from Valencia where he is preparing for Sunday's European Grand Prix.
"I’m expected to be doing what I have been, which is crashing and making a mess of many sessions and what a normal rookie year looks like."
Binder has finished in the top 10 only twice in the eight races since Brno, with two retirements, but rather than asking where it all went wrong, he is still marvelling at what went right.
Those who have followed the South African since he was a 14-year-old junior rider, his progress the feature of a documentary http://redbull.com/becoming33 released this week by Red Bull, are perhaps less surprised.
World champion in Moto3 in 2016, he was runner-up to Alex Marquez in Moto2 in 2019 with five wins - the same number as the Spaniard.
The last before Binder to win in his MotoGP debut season was Marquez's brother Marc, the champion whose absence through injury has blown the title race wide open, in 2013.
"I'm definitely keeping some good company with that one but that’s history now. That win’s come and gone and I just want a few more," said Binder, whose race number 33 reflects his initials BB.
"If you look at how many people have won this season it’s insane. I think it’s been such an up and down year for everybody almost.
"I think also with Marc not being here, with him being out injured, everyone seems to think that this is their chance so it kind of seems to have mixed it up quite a lot."
The COVID-19 pandemic ripped up the original calendar, with races restricted to Europe and in close succession behind closed doors.
"We’re going to the tracks at different times, different temperatures. It’s a whole different calendar with these races being back to back," said Binder.
"Unfortunately if you hurt yourself when these races are so stacked together it’s normal that you’re going to sit out for a few. So it’s been a crazy year so far and I hope these last few races I can do a good job."
Binder has not been back to South Africa, and his parents' home outside Johannesburg, since his victory and he said life had not changed much.
"I got a few more messages, that’s for sure. But it’s been cool... everything seemed to stay exactly the way it was," he said.
He lives, travels and trains with his younger brother Darryn, now also a winner in Moto3, with a dream of both eventually racing together in the top flight.
"We’ve raced together our whole lives pretty much so I’m looking forward to getting back to that point," he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)