Oliveira, Tech3 'sad' as best of season slips away

Miguel Oliveira shows what might have been with fastest KTM lap despite early fall, and bike damage, in the German MotoGP race.
Oliveira, Tech3 'sad' as best of season slips away

MotoGP rookie Miguel Oliveira had the pace to claim his and the Tech3 team's best result of the season so far, in the German Grand Prix.

But despite setting the fastest lap of any KTM rider, Oliveira would fail to score a single point.

An early fall at turn three - the corner which also caught out fellow rookie Fabio Quartararo - left Oliveira in a distant last place, where he would remain to the chequered flag.

But if the 33-seconds lost during that incident was removed from Oliveira's race time, he would have finished in eleventh place. And that's without taking into account the broken winglet and bent brake lever, he rode with for almost the entire race.

“It’s a sad finish to this weekend because I think it was one of my strongest I had all season," Oliveira said.

"It’s a shame that I did this mistake early in the race, because after the crash even with a broken winglet I was quite fast and I had the pace to be inside the top ten."

Oliveira and Tech3's best finish so far this season is a tenth in Argentina, which team manager Herve Poncharal is confident he would have beaten – despite qualifying in 20th place for the third race in a row.

"Unfortunately, one more time, we didn’t qualify well enough and I think that is something we have to work on very much for the second part of the season," Poncharal said.

Oliveira was up to 17th place after the opening lap, before disaster struck.

"The start was quite good from Miguel [but] unfortunately, although he is a rider that very, very rarely does a mistake, he did one and that was a costly mistake at the wrong moment," Poncharal said of the fall.

"He was brave to pick up the bike, back on track with a broken winglet on the right side and completely bent brake lever. Even though, he pushed and was doing impressive lap times with the bike quite damaged.

"What is leaving us even more sad is the fact, that this pace would have been good enough for the top 10 or even the top 8, which means the best result of the season so far. Of course, it would have been great to leave for the holidays with that result.

"We know we can do it, but we need to prove it on paper. But I want to say ‘Good job, Miguel! Thank you for staying on track and pushing!’"

Team-mate Hafizh Syahrin also missed out on points in 16th place having suffered, like factory star Pol Espargaro, a drastic loss of rear grip.

The Malaysian, who joined his team-mate in receiving a carbon fibre swingarm at Sachsenring, had risen from 18th to 15th early in the race.

“The beginning of the race was really good, but after ten laps we had a very big drop [in grip]," Syahrin said. "Still, I tried to keep the pace, but then we were dropping again, so it was impossible in the left corners to keep the grip.

"It was easy to spin and many times, I was sliding a lot. I couldn’t ride the bike comfortably and was fighting especially with the left side."

Poncharal 'couldn't explain' the problems suffered by Syahrin, who has repeatedly struggled for grip at the end of races.

"I don’t know what to say, because the qualifying position was a bit better for Hafizh than Miguel. The start was not ideal, but anyway he passed a few guys and was 15th, so we were quite happy when he was fighting with Nakagami in front," he said.

"We thought that could be at least one of the guys finishing in the points and having a bit of positive feeling before the end of this first part of the season.

"Unfortunately, we saw his pace dropping dramatically, many riders passed him. I can’t explain it, because it looks like the same scenario every weekend; at the end of the race, there is no grip, much sliding, no pace.

"That was in Assen, but then we got the carbon swingarm, which is supposed to be better.

"Clearly, the tyre wear is more than Miguel, who has been a lot faster than his team-mate. So, maybe there is also something to understand about how to handle the bike, how to set it up and how to ride it.

"But I am disappointed with that result, because I’m sure today Hafizh had the possibility to score a point or two, minimum and we didn’t do it, which is a shame."

Syahrin, currently without a 2020 contract, is 25th with three points to his name.

The latest rumours suggest KTM Moto2 star Brad Binder could join Tech3's MotoGP team next season.

If so, Syahrin might move in the opposite direction, returning to Moto2 either with Tech3 or perhaps his local Sepang team…

CLICK HERE for the current 2020 rider line-up.