Razali: Oliveira ‘great start, lot to prove’, ‘I would not leave out Raul’

After a ‘great’ Aprilia debut at the Valencia test, RNF team boss Razlan Razali has high hopes for five-time MotoGP race winner Miguel Oliveira in 2023.
Miguel Oliveira, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November
Miguel Oliveira, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November

But the Malaysian also stressed that young team-mate Raul Fernandez should not be overlooked after a miserable rookie season.

Both arrive at the new RNF-Aprilia satellite partnership from KTM, where Oliveira took more RC16 wins than any other rider but was unable to finish higher than ninth in the championship and lost his factory seat to Jack Miller.

Turning down the offer of a return to Tech3 or potential move to a satellite Ducati, Oliveira has bet his MotoGP future on Aprilia, where he will ride 2022 spec RS-GPs with RNF this year.

The Portuguese, 28, impressed with a close fourth place on his Aprilia debut at last November’s Valencia test and is tipped to be one of the surprises of the season.

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“Miguel has got a lot to prove. especially at this important stage of his career,” Razali told Crash.net ahead of this weekend’s Official Sepang test.

“And of course, he’s looking to carry forward the momentum from a really great one day test last year, when he got onboard the RS-GP and adapted very quickly.

“The Sepang test is the beginning, but also knowing that the next test will be at his home track in Portimao, and also round one of the season, he is full of enthusiasm, full of motivation.

“But I would also not leave out Raul.

“Raul is younger [22] and people forget because of his one year in his former team what he did in Moto2 as a rookie. So I would not discount Raul and I think Raul will be there as well.

“Both are exciting riders that we're very happy to have.”

Speaking ahead of the three-day test, Oliveira said: "It would be super nice, if I could be close to Aleix (Espargaro) and Maverick (Viñales) in this test. It’s definitely a goal to be near the factory guys.

"We are expecting some little things to test, not a lot though. Our main job is to build a strong base and understand what can work for me and what might not work. It’s a test, where we will filter a couple of things. The base is just me getting used to the bike.”

Raul Fernandez, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November
Raul Fernandez, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November

'Both of us were competing to get Raul!'

Razali was among the MotoGP team bosses pursuing Fernandez during his 2021 Moto2 campaign, when the Spaniard became the first rider since Marc Marquez to fight for the intermediate title as a rookie.

Fernandez won eight races, move than Ajo team-mate and eventual champion Remy Gardner, then moved with the Australian to MotoGP with Tech3 after Razali and Yamaha, plus Aprilia, had expressed ‘interest’.

“Yes, [we tried to sign him] for last year. In fact, not just us, also Massimo [Rivola, Aprilia]. Both of us were competing at the time to get Raul,” Razali confirmed. “We caused problems [with KTM]!

“But look, we respected their agreement and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But we did not give up on him.”

While unable to get Fernandez for RNF’s then Yamaha team, Razali did sign the Spaniard’s Moto2 crew chief Noe Herrera and the pair will be reunited in 2023.

“Now they are back together, so Raul is back in his comfort zone with someone that he trusts, someone that he is familiar with,” Razali said.

“A rider needs to have a total package, which includes not only the bike but the support system around him. I think we’ve provided that. So now Raul can reset and restart [after] the bad vibes from last season.”

Fernandez, who took a best race finish of 12th during his rookie year, was 21st at the Valencia test but within one-second of Oliveira.

“To be honest, the conditions in Valencia haven’t been perfect and at the end of a long season, also my physical condition was not perfect there," Fernandez said.

"So, I’m very happy to be back on the bike this week. I think I will enjoy riding like a kid.”

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