Interview with Miguel Oliveira: “I started screaming so that nobody would pass me”


Miguel Oliveira analyses the Italian Grand Prix that was unforgettable for him and for Portugal.

This past Sunday, Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Miguel Oliveira made history at Mugello circuit with his first victory in the World Championship, becoming the first Portuguese to win a GP. Two days on, Oliveira reviews his epic victory and describes his feelings on that special day. He hopes the victory is the first of many, and that in the coming years he is not the only Portuguese in the World Championship.

How does it feel to get your first World Championship race victory after so much effort?
“The truth is I felt pressure to take my first win in the World Championship, and to have got it is a source of great satisfaction. I am very happy. This will give me a lot of confidence going into the next races. But we have to keep working and continue to improve our setup. You can never do too much and you can always take a step forward.

Now we have to enjoy the moment and I want to thank the whole team, KTM, Red Bull and all the partners. Also my family and all those who have supported me over the years.”

Two days on, how do you remember the race? Was the strategy of exiting the last corner in the lead something you studied before the start of the race?
“No, not at all. It was improvised on my part. On the grid I told Jordi [Gallardo], my crew chief, that I did not want to be first into the last corner. But in the end, watching the laps go by, I thought it was the best solution -and so it was. If I had been second or third into the last corner, I could have been blocked and lost all chances of the win. Going first I risked a ‘photo finish’ or getting at least onto the podium, so I would have got a reward in practically every case.”

First you were in the second group, you led the race after several laps and at the beginning of the last lap you were fourth. Was it difficult to manage all these situations?
“It was a very hard-fought race, right from the start. In the early stages I was in the second group and saw that we could lose out on a chance of the podium. We managed to catch the leading group and at that moment I saw that I had the pace, so I took the lead. At that moment I saw I couldn’t escape, but on the second half of the track I was faster and on sector four I was able to establish the necessary advantage to cross the finish line first.

However, when at the start of the final lap I was fourth, I thought I had made a mistake in leading lead so many laps. After the first corner I went for broke. I tried to overtake three riders and I took a risk. I am very happy.”

What was the last time down the long straight like?
“It doesn’t give you time to think much. It was an explosion of joy and there were a few tears, but nobody saw that. Coming out of the last corner, I saw the chequered flag and started screaming for nobody to pass me, as if shouting would make me go faster! [Laughs]”

Throughout the weekend did you think that this could be the race for your first win?
“The truth is, this was not one of those races where you can be sure of dominating. At Mugello the Italian riders are always very strong and give everything. Fortunately, I was wrong, I managed to have a great race. The free practices were good, but there was not the same feeling in the qualifying session when I took eleventh place on the grid. We knew that we were very strong in sector 4 and we showed that.”

Did you feel better in the race than in free practice?
“I think the race showed who had the better pace and who was more comfortable the entire way. In the end we know that several riders only do one lap in qualifying, which allows them to be high up on the timesheets but not in the race. Anything could have happened, because it was a very large group, but it worked out fine.”

Is Mugello 2015 the best race you’ve ever ridden?
“Yes, without a doubt. I have made great comebacks and taken podiums, but this race was very hard-fought and we deserved the win.”

How do you approach the remainder of the World Championship?
“It is true that it took us six races to achieve our first victory, but we deserved it. We worked hard for it. From now on, we have to focus race by race and not think beyond that, and do our best. We have to try to win whenever possible.”

You mention that it took you six races to achieve victory. What about the previous season?
“This year I started counting from scratch. I knew I had the team to win and the bike to do it, so this season I began a new adventure in the World Championship. Without forgetting the past, because I learned a lot, but this is a new phase.”

You are the first Portuguese in history to get a win in the World  Championship.
“Sunday was an historic day for Portugal. It’s really satisfying to get my first win and it is also the first for my country. I hope my fans enjoyed the race and were happy, because without them none of this would have been possible. We all deserve it.”

Do you think this win will help MotoGP get more fans in Portugal?
“My country does not have much tradition in this sport; it’s not like Spain or Italy, for example. It has not been easy. I hope this is not the last win and that we make motorcycle racing grow in Portugal. I am also working on this, so I hope that our efforts are successful.”

To whom do you dedicate this victory?
“The team, KTM, Red Bull, all the partners, my family and all my fans, but especially I dedicate this to my father. I know what he has invested in me to get me where I am, and I can guarantee that it was not easy. I think this is the best gift I can give him.”