MotoGP Mandalika: Start key to Oliveira’s success, visibility difficult

| | MotoGP
Picture: GeeBee Images

Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira secured a surprise victory in the maiden MotoGP race at the Mandalika Circuit on Sunday.

Lining up seventh on the grid, Oliveira launched to a sensational lead on the opening lap. Dropping back briefly behind Ducati’s Jack Miller as the race unfolded, the KTM was back in charge from the fifth revolution and didn’t look back.

Despite the heat, humidity and torrential tropical rainstorm which delayed the race by a full 75 minutes, Oliveira maintained his cool. Managing his pace in the challenging conditions he built a gap out front which sat at over three minutes in the closing stages, before Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo began his late-race fight back. The comeback came too late, however, with the 27-year-old adding a fourth celebration to his win tally and a historic one at that.

“I think without this good start, the race could have been a bit different for me,” Oliveira admitted from the Mandalika press conference. “I really couldn’t see anything behind the riders. With all the spray and a lot of rain in the visor, it was definitely very hard to see the lines and to be precise. Also to judge the grip level. I think by the end of the race I understood more how much I could push but to ride 20 laps in a row on the rain or to do a practice is quite different. You can explore a bit more during the practice, braking points, or go wide or cool down the tyres but here was truly difficult, you needed to manage.

“Fortunately I made a good start. After that, just following Jack a little bit, I could understand a bit more and then was just building up a gap and control for the rest of the race.

“If the race had seven laps more, I don’t know but Fabio was coming on pretty strong. Happy, happy for coming back to the podium and especially with the win.”

With the track waterlogged in the run up to the eventual start, and patches of the resurfaced asphalt holding water longer than the areas around them, conditions on track were treacherous at times.

“I saw that Pecco [Bagnaia] and Jorge [Martin], they crashed maybe because of some aquaplaning into turn one,” Oliveira explained. “To be honest with you, I haven’t realised about that amount of water there. Maybe just by pure instinct I just was out of it all the time. So fortunately for me was good.

“Going behind some riders helps,” he said on analysing the grip available as the race unfolded. “Going behind Jack and seeing the laptimes, I could build up the reference. Especially for braking points. After that I was seeing my laptime, seeing that I was building a gap so I tried to maintain that level of risk and not make any mistakes.

“I think is very early to say because we only had two races,” Oliveira reflected on the KTM’s potential across the remaining 2022 season. “For sure we want to keep this strong condition going into other races as well. We just don’t want to perform three times or four times during the season and then just be average. We want to be up there more often.

“We are aware that we need to work really hard. That’s normal of this category. Everyone is so close together and you see the difference that sometimes it makes being in the Q2 or not, it can turn your whole weekend around. We are focusing on being fast first of all, and then just being able to produce good performances in the race and score points.”

Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images