‘Dude, can you imagine his smile?’ - Mamola's most exciting rider move for 2023

Randy Mamola says Miguel Oliveira’s switch to Aprilia is ‘probably’ the most exciting MotoGP rider move for 2023.
Miguel Oliveira, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November
Miguel Oliveira, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November

Augusto Fernandez may be the only rookie on next year’s grid but there will also be plenty of experienced riders discovering new machinery.

Fernandez’ team-mate for example, Pol Espargaro, will be returning to a KTM RC16 after two years at Honda; while Espargaro himself will be replaced by Suzuki refugee, 2020 world champion Joan Mir.

Additionally, Mir’s 2022 Suzuki team-mate, Alex Rins, will join Honda in the LCR team; Jack Miller heads to Red Bull KTM; Enea Bastianini replaces him in the factory Ducati team; Bastianini himself is replaced in Gresini Ducati by Alex Marquez; and Aprilia gain two riders from KTM.

One of those is Raul Fernandez. The other is “probably” the most exciting switch for 2023, according to 13-time Grand Prix winner Randy Mamola.

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“Dude, can you imagine his smile?” Mamola wonders.

The rider in question is Miguel Oliveira, who was fourth fastest after jumping straight from a factory KTM RC16 to a satellite Aprilia RS-GP at the Valencia test. It’s one of several rider moves that leave Mamola 'excited' for 2023.

“I’m excited about next year,” he says. “I’m hoping that Honda can get things together for everyone, not just Marc, because Marc is just exceptional, as we know, but also [Yamaha] for Quartararo.”

Mamola continues, “Then you’ve got these four Aprilias, so the demand is going to [be high for the riders],” he said, because of the number of fast riders on competitive bikes.

“I used to have to race Kenny [Roberts], or Barry [Sheene], or Freddie [Spencer], or Eddie [Lawson], or [Kevin] Schwantz  - they’re all people I knew really well. But [now], man there’s guys in 15th place you’ve got to race the next week that have never been [up] there before and you’re going ‘frick, and he’s on a fast bike!’”

Randy Mamola
Randy Mamola

Although Oliveira is going from a factory team to a satellite outfit, Mamola suggests the riders going to fill the gaps in the Austrian line-up could have a tougher time next year.

“We knew... the KTMs would be fast in Valencia, they had been in the past. So, we kind of knew that Jack Miller and those guys would hop on and go ‘ah, it’s not so bad.’

“Obviously there was a different, new chassis that Dani [Pedrosa] had been running and stuff like that but we don’t know the ins and outs.”

In a period of uniformity in MotoGP, KTM is one of the manufacturers whose prototype exists outside of the conventional solutions.

KTM still use a steel tubular frame (albeit with oval tubes rather than traditional circular ones) instead of aluminium beams; they use WP suspension compared to the Ohlins of the others; and a (slightly) narrow-angle V4.

Most V4s in MotoGP are built with a 90-degree angle - this is the case for Ducati, Honda, and Aprilia since 2020 - but KTM’s uses a slightly narrower angle.

“It comes down to the engine character,” Mamola explains regarding how a bike feels and the feedback it gives to a rider, “and that’s what they need to [work on].”

Some hope for KTM lies in its engineering acquisitions for 2023. “A lot of engineers left Suzuki, some are at Yamaha, some are at KTM, so this is what’s going to happen.”

But, it’s not only Suzuki engineers on the move to KTM. Ducati also lost personnel, including Enea Bastianini’s Gresini crew chief Alberto Giribuola, who previously worked with Andrea Dovizioso.

Additionally, “Jack Miller’s engineer, chief engineer, went with him,” Mamola notes. “So, what do you learn? As soon as Jack gets on the bike, ‘it’s great, but it doesn’t do this, this, this, this.’ So, what [have] they got to work on?”

Any difference that can be made for next year must be done quickly, however, despite the relatively early finish to 2022 and relatively late start to 2023. “The problem is next year, it’s less testing,” Mamola says.

There will only be five days of testing for the full-time MotoGP riders before 2023, with three days in Sepang before a two-day test in Portimao ahead of the season-opener in the same circuit.

By Alex Whitworth

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