Miguel Oliveira's eighteenth place finish at the Sachsenring equaled his worst result of the season, his previous eighteenth place finish coming at Jerez. But while his position at Jerez was a fairly accurate reflection of his performance at the Spanish track, the Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider's finish at the Sachsenring belied his actual pace.
Oliveira crashed at Turn 3 on the second lap of the race, wiping the winglet from the right hand side of the KTM RC16, before remounting to chase down the field. The pace Oliveira set in that chase was impressive: take away the 31 seconds he lost in the lap 2 crash, and the Portuguese rider would have been close to Pol Espargaro on the factory KTM, and within sight of a top ten finish.
After the race, I spoke to the Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider to find out what happened, and how his race had gone, as well as taking a brief look at the first half of his season. But we started off with that second lap crash.
Q: What happened in lap two?
MO: An exact copy of the crash of Johann. I don’t know if they showed it on TV, but he crashed at the same corner one lap later. Technically we’re three degrees more. Was just enough to lose the front. For sure, when we start the first laps the tire temperature is not really up to where it should be. Costly mistake.
Q: Is that a little bit of experience just because the conditions seemed to change a lot? It was a lot colder than before.
MO: When it comes to these kind of crashes there’s nothing I think you can learn about. You see Alex Rins in the last race, you see even in this race. It’s sometimes if you are extra careful, you don’t get quite the pace in the beginning and if you push too much, you crash. We are immediately as soon as we start riding, we are not crashing and crashing.
Q: So it’s a very narrow window all the time you’re trying to work with?
MO: Exactly. Especially with the full fuel tank, which in our case is even worse because our bike when we have the full fuel tank it affects a lot the weight on the rear. Obviously we don’t load the front as much.
Q: After that, your pace was really strong. It was low 1'22’s.
MO: Yes. It was okay. Already in the FP4 we could see that my pace was actually quite nice, really inside the top ten. I repeated this in the race. The right winglet was damaged, it was completely off. I was just sideways on the straight. Not enough loading in the right corners. It was not easy to finish the race like this. Even worse to do this pace. I was quite surprised, the team also. But I was just glad that the bike had no damage so I could continue and get information for the team and for KTM.
Q: Also your fastest lap was faster than Pol Espargaro’s.
MO: Yes. I was fastest KTM on track today and for sure the pace was also better.
Q: Do you have any idea if you’ll be getting any updates soon? Will you have anything to test, for example, at Brno? I think you have the carbon swing arm now. That makes a difference?
MO: Yes. It did make a slight difference. In Assen we couldn’t really see because we ran with the hard tire. So I think the difference between the standard one and the carbon swingarm one was not as much. Here we had a lot of tire degradation. So the carbon swing arm does give something, but I think it’s also down to the power delivery strategy and also the TC controls, that makes the most difference.
Q: So it’s a package thing. It’s the way the package works together?
MO: Yeah. It’s actually quite hard to really see what is really the difference on just the part, because when you search for grip it’s not only the carbon swing arm or the rear suspension. It’s a whole combination.
Q: How do you feel you’ve progressed in your first half of your championship?
MO: I say quite good, to be honest. Since we’ve come back to Europe I was maybe not at my best, but I picked up the pace since Mugello. I was getting much better on the bike, finishing sometimes in front of Johann in the last two races, for example, and even faster than him in qualifying. So my riding, looking at the data, it’s getting much closer to where it should be to Pol and how to ride the KTM. So I’m quite proud and happy for that.
Q: It looks like maybe Brad Binder could be here next year as a teammate. Obviously you have experience with him as a teammate.
MO: Many years!
Q: Are you looking forward to working with him?
MO: I think Brad is an excellent rider, and an even better person. He definitely deserves this ride. He has been doing a lot for KTM this year. It’s not easy to be on the bike which you know it’s not the best package. He’s still striving and going for it, so I think he deserves the chance. It’s not going to be easy life, but I think he’s in the right place and he’s in the right time to move up, so we’ll see.
Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.