Oliveira shocks the regulars
Miguel Oliveira won the 6th Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race of the year on a wet and cold midsummer’s day at Donington. The 13 year old Portuguese was having only his second race in the Cup after being a wild card rider at his home event back in April. In very slippery conditions he led from start to finish ahead of 16 year old Norwegian Sturla Fagerhaug and 15 year old South African Mathew Scholtz.
Cup leader Luis Salom finished 9th and the 16 year old Spaniard saw his points lead dwindle to 9 ahead of JD Beach who crossed the line 5th. The 16 year old American dirt tracker did especially well having qualified only 12th.
It was Portugal’s day though. “It is so great to win this race. I didn’t expect to be able to do that. It’s is so important for me because the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup has really good riders and it’s not easy,” said the incredibly composed youngster in excellent English.
“I don’t really like riding in the rain and it is my first time in the wet on the KTM but right from the start I had a good feeling. I think that was the key to the race. I felt good from the start and I guess the other riders didn’t.” He rocketed away at almost 3 seconds a lap to a 16 second advantage before the 16 lap race was half over.
What could have been boring became a thriller as the second place group began to cut back the advantage. Pole man Daijiro Hiura and Florian Marino both crashed out of contention for podium places leaving it to Fagerhaug and Scholtz to hunt down Oliveira, at times cutting his lead by almost 2 seconds a lap.
3rd went to first time podium man and first year Rookie Scholtz. “I’m just so happy you can’t believe it. Finally a good race and that is my first ever race in the rain. From the start I was battling with Florian and that slowed us down a bit so Miguel got away from us. Then when Sturla passed us I followed him and we picked up the pace a bit. Florian crashed in front of me and I thought, wow!!. I almost crashed about 5 times myself, it was really slippery in places.”
2nd placed Fagerhaug agreed. “It was so slippery going through that right hander onto the main straight. I concentrated on being smooth. At least this time my start wasn’t so bad. That is what has been letting me down so much but after Mugello I got some good advice about what I was doing wrong and it worked. I was a bit slow over the first few laps because we had new rain tyres on and it was pretty slippery.”
“Miguel got away and I could only start catching him when I got past Florian and Mat. It was a big gap by then. I saw from my pit board that it was coming down quite a lot towards the end, I don’t know if he had something in hand but another lap or 2 and it would have been very interesting.”
The gap was only 1.7 seconds at the flag and Oliveira had no idea it was that close. “When you lead a race like that by quite a long way it is easy to lose concentration. But I didn’t find it too hard to get the concentration back again. I had a few slides and eased off a little but mainly I felt good and comfortable. Early in the race I was looking behind and I could see I had a good lead. I was looking across the track at the end of each lap but I didn’t realise that I wasn’t seeing the second place rider as Sturla and Mat had got very close. I will talk to my mechanic before the next race and get better organised with the pit signals.”
After an uncharacteristic fall in the final practice session that left him on the 3rd row of the grid Beach was not unhappy with 5th. “It’s a pretty good result, the way the weekend was going and the way that the bike was running at the start. Past 11,000 revs it just spun to 13 but with no power. So early on the others just got away. The trouble cleared up and I wanted to get up with the front group and learn more about the track but the gap was just too big so I settled for the points.”
Points were also on the mind of Cup leader Salom. “It was a hard race, not a good result at all but it was the best I could do today. From the start there was just no grip, no feeling. I just didn’t want to crash, there were a lot of crashes and I realised I just had to go for the points. It is OK, just one race and in Assen I hope I can be back on the podium.”
After dry practice sessions the wet and cold produced 9 crashes but fortunately no serious injuries. Josh Elliott was taken to the medical centre complaining of a sore neck but x-rays showed no significant injury.