Miguel Oliveira says his ability to “stay calm” while sustaining pressure from Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco was key to winning the Catalan Grand Prix.
Oliviera rose from fourth on the grid to grab second heading into Turn 1 off the start, before snatching the lead away from Ducati’s Jack Miller on the second tour.
He had managed to craft a 1.2 second lead before a recovering Quartararo closed him down at around mid-distance, the Yamaha man firing through to take the lead initially at Turn 5 before Oliveira fought back to re-take the initiative on the run down to Turn 1 just a lap later.
The Frenchman would ultimately run into trouble with his leathers in the closing laps that let the KTM pilot off the leash, though Zarco would charge towards the leader over the final few laps to ultimately take the chequered flag just 0.175s behind Oliveira, who secured his first win for the factory KTM outfit and his third career success.
Oliveira says his “mental ability to stay calm” was a crucial ingredient to claiming victory at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya as he looked to save his tyres in the early stages while controlling his lead, the Portuguese ace adding how “special” it was to enjoy the first of his three wins in front of the fans.
“The most difficult thing about the race was having the mental ability to stay calm, it was so easy to be aggressive on the throttle to try and follow someone or override with the tyres at the beginning,” explained Oliveira.
“I felt that was the key, I knew that if I stayed calm the race would come to me.
“It’s special (having fans in stands) as it’s also one of the reasons we race is to entertain the fans, so it’s great they are here and it’s the first step to a more normal sport (setting) I was very proud to see a lot of Portuguese flags in the grandstands.”
Oliveira says he is not looking at a title tilt following his two strong recent weekends-a run to second at Mugello a week ago helping him to seventh in the riders standings heading to Germany-but is hoping his RC16 will work well at the Sachsenring due to the recently-upgraded machine being “friendly at tracks it hasn’t been in the past.”
“I know it’s tempting to look at the standings when we rise up so quick, the truth is we need to focus race by race and work step by step to get as many points as we can get,” continued Oliveira.
“It’s nice of course today as we’ve gained points on everyone but this won’t always be the case, we need to keep accepting our potential and keep working and we will end up where we deserve to be.
“I feel we can have a competitive package (in Germany), it’s a track that I think could suit our bike and because it has been friendly at tracks it hasn’t been in the past like Mugello, we’ll see but hopefully we can keep this form going.”
Oliviera sits 68 points adrift of series leader Fabio Quartararo following a disastrous start to the ’21 campaign, crashing out from his home event in Portugal and only scoring a best result of 11th at Jerez across the first five encounters.
He is now the lead KTM rider in the standings after team-mate Brad Binder could only manage eighth in Barcelona, the South African 11 points back from Oliveira heading to the German GP in two weeks time.