Binder "learned about riders' behaviour in the lead group" in 2023 – Guidotti

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager, Francesco Guidotti, spoke to about the #33 and why consistency is key in their 2024 title pursuit

A couple of weeks away from 2024 pre-season testing kicking back into gear, caught up with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager, Francesco Guidotti, to look ahead at what the new campaign might bring for the Austrian camp. 

“We have to be optimistic of course, we have to believe and trust in what we’ve done last year and what we’ve done during the winter,” began Guidotti, as KTM head into 2024 following a successful 2023 season that brought six Sunday podiums – five for Brad Binder, one for Jack Miller – and a couple of Tissot Sprint victories in Argentina and Jerez, thanks to Binder’s heroics.

While it was a strong season, especially for Binder with the South African finishing P4 in the overall standings, something is missing from the record books – a Sunday victory. Binder came close on several occasions but for one reason or another, those badly craved 25 points went begging.

“Last year was great. We can’t really complain, the growth was clear, but we want more. The target is always the big one so we are trying to grab it, trying to catch it,” continued Guidotti, as KTM approach the upcoming campaign with one thing in mind: winning the MotoGP™ World Championship for the first time.

“The room for improvement isn’t like in the past, there is a small step to do but it’s the most difficult. We’ve seen how difficult it is, also other manufacturers are trying to get back on top so it’s clear the technology level is really high and the rider’s levels are amazing.

“Every year is more difficult, every year we say ‘This year will be more difficult’ and it’s difficult between the riders and manufacturers are always thinner and thinner. So to recover the small gap is a challenge. We think we’re ready to make this last improvement but we have to get back on track and see what happens.”

There’s no escaping the fact that Ducati were the manufacturer to beat in 2023. Only three Sunday races weren’t won by the Italian marque last season as Honda and Aprilia bagged victories in Austin, Silverstone and Barcelona thanks to new Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ recruit Alex Rins and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) respectively.

However, KTM – in the hands of Binder – were Ducati’s most regular threat. And that’s why, as Guidotti says, it’s small details that are going to make the difference for KTM in their pursuit of title glory.

And it’s Binder who will start the season as KTM’s key title hopeful. Two P2s – plus Thailand’s blisteringly brilliant battle with Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – were as close as the #33 got to winning for the first time since he skated to victory on that famous Austrian GP afternoon in 2021. 12 different riders have won a MotoGP™ race since then, but despite the obvious disappointment in going winless for two seasons, Guidotti acknowledged that racing at the front regularly in 2023 was a good dose of valuable experience gained by the 2016 Moto3™ World Champion.

“Yeah we missed the win with him, sometimes for really few details but he showed that he can stay in the leading group and especially having a better qualifying he can stay in the lead group from the beginning of the race,” commented Guidotti, talking about Binder.

“I think now he got used to staying there and also learned more about the behaviour of riders in the lead group, so let’s try to start again from there and build up the victory during the season, or more victories during the season.

“He had the chance to learn last year staying in the leading group. He’s a racer, he’s a proper racer, and he showed in Moto3 and Moto2 he won the title and several races. In MotoGP until the last period, he wasn’t in the lead group constantly.

“It’s clear the riders at the top of MotoGP are at a top level, so you have to be there more and more to understand when and how to overtake, when is the key point of the race to make the overtake and when to be conservative. It’s something you get used to when you are there. He’s a proper racer, and with a little bit of a better bike, he can achieve important results.”

So how important will it be for Binder to secure a win early into the 2024 season? For any of the 22 riders on the grid, picking up great results early doors will be crucial. That's obvious. However, Guidotti points out that consistency is the key that will unlock the World Championship winning door for KTM and Binder in 2024 – not just boasting outright race-winning pace every weekend.

“For every rider it’s important. The sooner it is the better it is, but we saw recently that consistency is what pays off in the end, so you have to be there in any condition. It doesn’t matter how many wins you have really, you have to be there consistently. This is the most important thing.

“Of course you have to win to show you’re the fastest, but in the end, you have to be the best at the end of the season. You don’t need to be the fastest every race, you need to be the fastest sometimes and be the best at the end of the season. It means that you have to sometimes be conservative, be fast enough to be top three, top five. The win is important because we’re there to win, but in the end, the consistency of the results pays off at the end of the season.

“Last year he (Binder) paid some, let’s say… he wasn’t third at the end of the season because of some crashes in the race. In 2022 he crashed just once and if we see the points of just Sunday races, he had more points in 2022 than in 2023. Sometimes we have to pay attention to this.”

The numbers to what Guidotti is referring to read like this: Binder’s 2022 points total was 188. Discounting his seven Sprint podiums in 2023, Binder notched up 184 points on Sundays. A big step forward in that area will be welcomed by both the rider and factory in 2024, and the team collectively are more than capable of doing just that.

Some questions about KTM’s progress compared to their rivals will be answered in the Sepang and Qatar Tests before the real business starts in early March under the Lusail International Circuit floodlights.