Miguel Oliveira says he knew he had to “risk” passing Johann Zarco mid-way through the Mugello lap to escape the charging Suzuki’s to grab his first podium of the year.
KTM brought an updated chassis for its RC16 to debut in the Italian Grand Prix, with both factory riders Oliviera and Brad Binder already showing promise throughout practice before qualifying sixth and seventh respectively for Sunday’s race.
Oliveira made a good start to move into fourth off the start, which soon became third after Francesco Bagnaia crashed from the lead at Turn 9 on the opening tour-leaving the Portuguese racer to try and find a way past second-placed Zarco with leader Fabio Quartararo checking out.
Pressure from the closing Suzuki’s of Joan Mir and Alex Rins facilitated a pass be made to try and secure a first rostrum of the term for KTM, Oliveira making the move with around a third of the race remaining before holding off Mir in the closing stages to take the chequered flag second, while Binder came home fifth to complete a strong day for the Austrian marque.
The two-time premier class race winner says KTM’s new chassis allowed him to be “gentler” on his tyres as well as enjoy greater consistency which made his podium run possible, adding that he knew he had to “risk” a move on Zarco with the Suzuki’s closing in ever more during the mid-portion of the contest.
“We’re happy that we could put this together, to be honest we’ve been close to finishing like this but on many occasions we just were not able to finish the races,” said Oliveira.
“A bit of luck was needed and just small details made a difference for us, the new frame and fuel we’ve been using they’re all small things that are helping the overall performance and now we’ve achieved this result it’ll give a real boost and real motivation for the whole team about the work they’ve been doing.
“It’s a good result to have as a base so now we just need to keep pushing to score more good points.
“We still don’t have everything perfect but we are still in pretty good shape, we really focussed on the long distance speed and this frame was made to be gentler on the tyres and give us better consistency, and we achieved that.
“It was hard because even if we can stay (with Ducati) we cannot overtake, I could see he was starting to drop a little and I knew I had to risk to overtake him in the middle of the lap because Joan (Mir) and (Alex) Rins were catching so I knew if they overtook me it would take me even longer to get back.
“The exit speed of that corner is so high and you are fighting the bike to just stay on the track let alone the kerb, but rules are rules and I was pushing really hard on the last lap to keep him (Mir) behind, but I don’t think I gained any advantage by using the green there.”
Oliveira added that motor racing could be “cruel” regarding the news of the passing of Moto3 rider Jason Depasquier, but cautioned that if too much thought went into every such incident “they would not race.”
“It can be a cruel sport and even if we learn something out of the crash it cannot come out of this high cost, I’m thinking of his family and his team right now,” continued Oliveira.
“He was an extremely polite kid and I remember him from the rookies cup (Red Bull Rookies), his mother is Portuguese so there is a bit of a connection there and I was following his career quite closely and he was making a nice step this season so it is an extremely sad moment.
“Moto3 is a tough category and everyone is riding close together looking for a slipstream, I believe that when we can to tracks where you can’t see the exit of the corner like here (Mugello) at Arabbiata or even Portimao there is very little you can do to miss someone that crashes.
“I don’t know if we should change something, but for sure if we think about it too much we would not race.”