Miguel Oliveira: “Having more KTM bikes on the grid is another source of motivation”


Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Miguel Oliveira previews the start of a Moto2 season for which he has high ambitions -wanting to improve on his 3 wins and 6 podiums from last year.

Third last year in KTM’s debut in Moto2, Miguel Oliveira starts his third season in the intermediate class as one of the candidates for the title. His excellent end to last season, in which he took three consecutive victories, and a good preseason, make him one of the riders to watch at the first Grand Prix of the season, which starts this Sunday in Qatar.

Are you ready for this new season?
“Yes. It has been a winter in which we have not ridden much -or at least not as much as last year. Even so, I feel prepared. When you finish a preseason, you always have that extra motivation knowing that the really important things, the races, are starting. That’s where the points are distributed.”

Has the KTM Moto2 bike changed much compared to the one you had at the end of last year?
“Compared to the bike with which we started the 2017 season, yes, but not too much in terms of that with which we finished the year. Some details have changed, but in the end the bike is very similar to that which we had at the final races. We finished in very good shape; the bike was very consistent at all the Grands Prix and we got good results in all conditions and with every tyre compound. I am sure that at least the start of the seasons will be good.”

How different is the start of this season compared to last year?
“Last year we came into the season waiting to see what we would find. I didn’t know what position in the World Championship I could end up in. During the weekend we set a goal, which we met in each practice session, and in the end we finished in the Top 5, which was a pretty good start. This year the objective is similar but we are already confident that practice will go well, that we can do a good job and that in the race I will be in a position that allows me to fight for the podium.”

The current champion and the runner-up from last year have moved up to MotoGP. How do you see this season in Moto2?
“Despite not having the top two riders from last year here, I feel that this season will be hard because we will have rookies that are coming very strong. Also, there will be riders who last year were in their first season and have evolved a lot, as is the case for Brad [Binder] or Bagnaia. We have to expect that there will be many riders in the fight for the top positions; as in any season, the key will be consistency and making the fewest mistakes possible. Our main goal is long-term, and we’re looking to place as high as possible in the standings after the final round.”

Talking about Brad, how do you think your teammate will do this year?
“He is looking quite good. Last year we saw that, despite him starting the season hindered by the injury to his arm, he finished strong. Now he has enjoyed a more consistent preseason, so he can grow and be up there from the beginning.”

“I’m concentrating more on doing well in Moto2; later, if there is the opportunity to move up to MotoGP, then it will be welcome.”

This season there are more KTMs on the grid. Is the fact that there are more bikes the same as yours an aid for you to have more data with which to compare, or does it mean even more competition on track?
“I think it will be a ‘good problem’, because knowing that you have riders that are doing well with the same bike, you motivate yourself more and you know you have to at least be faster than them. There are many riders representing other constructors, and they will all think the same. I don’t think you have to analyse what each bike has, but rather the rider who is on it. In terms of analysing the World Championship, I don’t think that studying which rider has which bike or suspension is decisive. I think that this class is full of details. If you find a riding style that allows you to be comfortable on your bike, you can always be up there.”

You are seen as one of the candidates for the title. What are the similarities between the start of this season and the start of 2015, when you were runner-up in Moto3?
“In 2015 it was a very difficult start to the season, because even here at the tests we didn’t know what we could aspire to do. We went to Qatar waiting to see what would happen, and we improved race by race. This year is different; in preseason we showed that we are strong and we are still high up on the timesheets, so from the beginning we have the potential to start in the top positions.”

Is the fact that you could go up to MotoGP in 2019 extra pressure for this year, or is it something you aren’t thinking about?
“I don’t think it’s my job to think about it. I think it’s a consequence of your work, whether you do well or not. I’m concentrating more on doing well in Moto2; later, if there is the opportunity to move up, then it will be welcome.”

This winter you have received several awards in Portugal. Are you happy with how the fanbase is growing in your home country?
“Yes, I’m noticing it a lot and we have to thank everyone, because people are very excited about watching the bikes -and more and more about having a representative of Portugal in the World Championship. I hope it grows even more; of course the goal is not to be famous, but more and more people are recognising me and this is something positive.”