Miguel Oliveira returns to his home race this weekend in Portimao and hopes for victory.
Last year Miguel Oliveira dominated his home round in Portimao scooping up his second race win of the season in the Tech3 KTM colours handing Herve’s squad their second ever race win in the premier class. Fast forward to 2021 and he will try and do the same again, but it won’t be easy.
In 2020 Miguel Oliveira was one of the most unexpected race winners before the season, if on the 1st January 2020 you said to me that Miguel Oliveira would win two MotoGP races, I probably would’ve disagreed, I wouldn’t have laughed at you and I wouldn’t have questioned your sanity and we all know he is incredibly fast, but at the time he had just finished a tough rookie season and was riding the KTM RC16 which had just one podium to its name at the time. More than likely I would’ve suggested he could get a podium, but not two race wins, but this is MotoGP and anything can happen in MotoGP as we have seen time and time again with surprise results varying from Katsuyuki Nakasuga finishing on the podium at Valencia 2011 to Can Oncu winning his debut race at 15 years old as a wildcard in Moto3, anything is possible so Miguel Oliveira winning two races isn’t something out of the realms of possibility but was absolutely something you would question could happen.
Oliveira picked up two race wins in 2020 as mentioned previously, firstly at Austria when he placed himself perfectly behind Jack Miller at the last corner on the last lap knowing the Aussie would dive up the inside of Pol Espargaro with Oliveira capitalising majorly on the pair going wide, stealing the race win from the clutches of Miller and Espargaro and putting Portugal back on the map, becoming the first rider to not only win a Moto3 race and a Moto2 race but now finally the first Portuguese rider to win in the MotoGP class completing the triple, so you can imagine his and his countries excitement when it was announced that Portimao was to be added to the MotoGP calendar.
It was no surprise that Oliveira was going to be competitive on home soil, he has completed more laps there than any other rider on the grid and knows every single inch of tarmac around the rollercoaster situated in Algarve, it would be preposterous to think he wasn’t going to do well there and after his Austrian win many believed he would also win in Portimao, but nobody expected the sheer domination we saw. Oliveira was able to show the field how it’s done leading the way in FP1, then aside from FP2 he was able to place within the top 3 each session before taking a sensational pole position.
This pole position set the scene for race day, he had proven he was fast around the track on his RC16 over one lap and he now just needed to do it over 25. This was obviously going to be a tough and daunting challenge, he had the weight of his entire country on his shoulders, many eager fans desperate to see their home hero win at their beloved circuit. He is adored in his home country, being welcomed into the circuit by an array of motorcycles with hundreds of fans desperate to even catch a glimpse of him. It was a shame that there were no fans at the circuit as the atmosphere would’ve been electric as I am sure you can imagine with the passion radiating throughout the circuit.
The lack of fans wasn’t an issue for Oliveira, he knew there was pressure to perform and he knew of the belief in him, however, he also was and still is fully aware of the talent he possesses and his previous race win in the year will have calmed him a lot as he had proven to himself that he could win a race and his machinery was up to scratch. When race day came along he was cool, calm and collected, he knew what he was there to do and he pulled it off in style.
Oliveira didn’t just win the race, he absolutely destroyed everyone racing at a completely different level compared to his opponents. Officially he won the race by 3.193 seconds but this doesn’t show the full picture as he slowed down when crossing the line to celebrate, his biggest lead was a massive 4.597 ahead of second-placed Franco Morbidelli on lap 21 before saving himself and his tyres to cruise to the easiest race win of his career, leading every single lap of the race. He was the only rider to set and then break the fastest race lap records and was consistently lapping more than 0.100 faster than second place.
To say that he impressed would be playing his achievements down, he showed everyone truly what he was capable of and put Portugal back on the map. He made headlines across the country and was on the front cover of many newspapers with his win becoming common news across his home country, he was a superhero in their eyes and still is.
Moving to 2021 once again he was greeted with a line of motorcycles all desperate to see their hero, there is no doubt he will be attempting to do the same again. It won’t be as easy this time around but if he’s done it once, he can do it again.
In 2020 MotoGP was the most competitive it has ever been with 9 different race winners and 15 different podium finishers, Portimao has a different edge to it this time around with the return of Marc Marquez which adds an extra dynamic to the mix, there is no doubt Oliveira’s confidence will be through the roof and the huge amount of support he has behind him will carry him through the weekend to a possible victory, this time in factory Red Bull KTM Colours.
Featured images – KTM Media / Polarity Photo