The Japanese Grand Prix, the 14th round of the MotoGP World Championship, started with unusual heat since the entire MotoGP caravan landed in the Land of the Rising Sun. Miguel Oliveira achieved good feelings aboard his Aprilia RS-GP, but the general feeling during the weekend was one of frustration, which culminated in the Portuguese hero's inability to finish the Motegi race.
Friday with rhythm
On the first day of the weekend Miguel Oliveira managed to find a good rhythm along the almost five kilometers of the Mobility Resort Motegi. He set the 16th best time in the first training session, having been mainly focused on achieving the best configuration for his machine. In the afternoon session, Oliveira narrowly missed out on achieving his perfect full lap, due to yellow flags being thrown. Both the Portuguese and his teammate were left out of the top 10 of the qualifying training session, in Miguel's case by just 0.056 seconds.
“I'm not happy with today. I finished 11th and our goal was to be in the top 10. I was going well, but in the last corner I couldn't complete my perfect lap and I also came across yellow flags. I could have been a little faster, but I don't know if it would have been enough. For tomorrow [Saturday], we will obviously try to improve especially in single lap speed. When I used the soft tire midway through the session in the race setting, I was very close to my fastest lap, so there is a lot of room for improvement. We have to get everything together for tomorrow", said the Portuguese driver.
Sprint race in preparation for Sunday
Miguel Oliveira, who narrowly missed out on a direct Q2 entry in Friday's practice session, struggled this Saturday to find the same confidence. The rider from Charneca de Caparica completed qualifying in sixth place, which means he had to line up 16th on the starting grid. At the start of the Sprint, he lost some positions in the first corners, but returned to P16 at the end of the first lap. After eight laps, Oliveira moved up to P15 and recovered another position on lap nine to finish 14th.
“Honestly, it was disappointing today. I had a little more pace, but I remained behind Raul, Augusto (Fernandez) and Franco (Morbidelli), it took a little imagination to try to overtake Franco, which wasn't easy. I finally managed it, but it reduced my pace and I was struggling to maintain the speed. But overall, it was good preparation for tomorrow [Sunday]. We know what we need to improve on the bike in terms of stability coming out of corners to avoid spinning so much and trying to start better, and that is the main objective of tomorrow's race”, shared Miguel Oliveira.
DNF for Miguel Oliveira
The intense and unexpected rain was noticeable this Sunday, just when the weekend's long race, with 24 planned laps, was about to begin. Already in formation on the starting grid, the rain was already noticed by the teams and after the start, and throughout the first lap, it was possible for the riders to change bikes. The rain increased significantly and literally flooded the track halfway through the race, so that it had to be stopped after 12 laps, making it too dangerous for the riders to continue.
Miguel Oliveira, who is usually able to adapt quickly to rainy conditions, once again showed his talent. He started from P16, changed bikes after the first lap and was in P11 at the end of the second lap. He progressed quickly through the field and was already in fifth at the end of the sixth lap, having overtaken another to fourth on the seventh lap. Oliveira had his fists rolled up and was giving it his all, but his helmet visor was filling with water, which led to him stopping at the end of lap 12, having managed to grab a strong sixth position earlier.
“Actually it was running well, the transitions between [red] flags were smooth, without any major problems. I changed bikes and started the race in the wet and I was feeling quite competitive. Then, with more rain I felt even better, the bike was behaving quite well. But then, three laps before retiring, I started having trouble seeing. I couldn't see anything and that never happened to me, I couldn't even see where I was going to put the wheels. There was a lot of water and I told myself to take it easy and not give up. I still covered half a lap, but my race was over. My team pulled the bike into the garage, which made it difficult to get back on the track, but I finally managed to restart from the pit lane, but the race was already over”, commented Miguel Oliveira.
The Portuguese ended up being classified in P18 when the race direction decided that the conditions were too risky to race. The Portuguese rider from CrytoDATA RNF MotoGP Team had to leave Japan without points, but he is already looking forward to the next stage in less than two weeks in Lombok, where he won the first Indonesian Grand Prix last year.