Tuesday morning, I should have been going to work, but not this Tuesday! It is the day that I have been looking forward to for most of the year. There was a hint I got earlier on in the year that this could happen, and ever since then I’ve been waiting for the news. Brad Binder was coming home and I was not going to miss seeing him arrive!
I could have easily slept in and been at the airport with time to spare, but I was in so much anticipation that I couldn’t get back to sleep once I woke up. I’ve been supporting Brad Binder for the last few years, and for the past few seasons I have hardly missed a race because I want to see what he will do next. This season, as we all know by now, he went all the way, he won the championship. He is 21 years old, 5 years younger than me and yet I look up to the guy. He is a legend, literally, that is what he has become.
I arrived at the airport early, hoping to see a good number of people, who share my love for MotoGP and support for Brad. There were already a few people around in their Brad Binder shirts by that time, even on a week day at 9am. I joined a few right up front at arrivals and waited patiently. Slowly the numbers grew and the T.V crews arrived. The turnout was good, not as many as I expected, but not everyone can just skip work I guess. I was never going to miss it. Brad was scheduled to land around 9:25am. He would be walking through the doors at any moment. However, as it goes with airports, we all waited a bit longer than expected. It grew the anticipation though, that for sure.
Finally, the time came. Brad walked through the sliding doors at arrivals and was greeted by a screaming crowd of dedicated fans, as well as family and friends. The surprise on his face was evident. The last time he came through those doors, not many would have known his name but for the die-hard fans. No one would have known when he was arriving before. Now though, after becoming World Champion, things have changed, he is now a household name and a South African sporting legend!
Brad handled the crowd and media like a true champion. You could imagine that after a long season, post season testing and a long flight home, he must have been exhausted. The smile never left his face and he shook almost everyone’s hand, if not everyone. It must have taken him at least half an hour to walk a few meters, taking photos, greeting fans, signing autographs and answering questions. Eventually he got to his family that were waiting patiently for him. It was great to see how well he handled himself. For a 21-year-old who has just become a World Champion, he is truly humble and takes the time to appreciate the people who have supported him back home. At the last minute, just before he was pulled away for a press conference, I managed to grab my photo with the champion. You can see by the look on my face that I was well chuffed, day and year made!
The day did not end there though. I found out a week back that I had been invited to the VIP meet and greet dinner with Brad Binder hosted by RideFast Magazine, RADMoto and Ridgeway Race Bar. I have to thank Rob at RideFast magazine for, yet again, making this happen for me. The event was held at Ridgeway Race Bar in Modderfontein, Johannesburg.
It is a really great venue; a place you can catch all the seasons racing. There are also a couple custom bikes on display, including two stunning Ducati’s in the middle of the showroom. It was a fitting venue for the event as it was the place where many South African fans saw Brad win the championship.
Again, because I was filled with excitement, I was there early. I took the time to catch up with Rob Portman, the editor of RideFast magazine and the man responsible for organizing the awesome event. He told me about his time in Valencia at the final MotoGP race of the season, damn am I jealous! You can read all about that in the December issue of RideFast. I also met another person you may be familiar with, Sheridan Morais. What a cool guy. For someone that has achieved what he has on the international racing scene, and will be riding in World SuperSport again next year, he is genuine.
As you can tell, the day was pretty good already and the night hadn’t even begun. Brad was still due to arrive. I obviously could not resist buying more Brad Binder merch from Rob, but it’s worth it. Still have my eye on a few more things as well as some Darryn Binder merch.
Then it was show time. Brad was announced on to the stage that was set up in the middle of the room, and as you can imagine, it got loud! Again, Brad took it in his stride, acknowledging everyone with the trade mark Binder smile. He then got down to answering some questions. It is really great to be able to get the perspective of someone who is a part of what happens week in and week out at the MotoGP. What he had to say was really interesting. His take on events during the season, for example the Fenati incident with the VR46 team, certain race incidents like his crash in the rain at Brno. It was all so great to hear straight from him. What I loved were his stories on being around some of the big name riders like Marc Marquez, Maverick Vinales, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Here is this kid, that is from South Africa, 21 years old and his telling us how he gets to hang out with these MotoGP stars. Now that is cool! When someone asked, “Does Valentino Rossi Know Brad Binder?”, his response was, “Well I speak to him almost every week, so I hope he does.” That is just mind blowing for me. For him as well, it turns out. He mentioned how Rossi is still the one guy that no matter how many times he sees him or speaks to him, the excitement and nerves never go away. Rossi for him will always be his idol, and a legend no matter how well he gets to know him. He then said that he hopes that will never change.
Brad Binder is living the dream. His worked hard for it and him and his family have sacrificed a lot to get there. It has all paid off in the end and he deserves to be where he is. I got the impression throughout the day that Brad is a true champion, and that would be true even if he hadn’t won the Moto3 championship. He treated everyone like a friend and made time for all who were there. I’m pretty sure he may have to get the other arm checked now too after signing all those autographs.
In the end, it was a day I will never forget! Seeing Brad and hearing what he had to say is a highlight of my year. It was also great to hear what everyone around had to say about him.
He really has done South Africa proud! We will all be backing him in Moto2 next season and wishing him the best. Let’s hope it won’t be too long before we have another night like this, when he brings home the Moto2 title and Darryn brings home the Moto3 title!
My word on Brad Binder’s return home.