RNF heads home, but ‘heat not a good friend of the RS-GP’

RNF heads for its home Malaysian MotoGP hoping pre-season testing knowledge can boost the chances of Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez but aware ‘heat is not a good friend of the Aprilia RS-GP’.
Miguel Oliveira, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February
Miguel Oliveira, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February

While Oliveira was forced out by an early technical problem, Fernandez joined factory riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales in struggling to endure the intense heat emitted from the Aprilia in Buriram.

Vinales retired with three laps to go, with Espargaro and Fernandez also battling to breathe. Espargaro clung on to cross the line in fifth (eighth after a tyre pressure penalty) while Fernandez slipped from inside the top ten to 15th.

With Sepang possibly as hot, if not hotter, than Buriram, the Aprilia riders will be expecting some urgent air flow solutions for this weekend.

“The Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit will always have a special place in my heart,” said RNF team principal Razlan Razali.

“Obviously, it’s our home Grand Prix, but more importantly, I spent 11 years of my career working in Sepang Circuit and I always look forward to come back to represent Malaysia in some ways, being the only South-East-Asian Team Principal in MotoGP. I look forward to seeing all the Malaysian fans.

“To race in Sepang will not be easy; a combination of heat, humidity and rain and as we saw last time in Buriram, heat is not a good friend of the Aprilia RS-GP and I really hope that something can be done to make both, Miguel and Raul feel a little bit more comfortable on the bike in the Malaysian heat.”

On a more positive note for RNF, Sepang will be the first circuit since the Portimao opener where Oliveira and Fernandez start the weekend with prior RS-GP track knowledge, courtesy of February’s pre-season test.

Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg said: “We have been there testing at the beginning of the season of course. So, our boys have been riding their bikes at this track already, which makes a huge difference to all the other circuits where they always just arrived with the knowledge from their old bikes [KTMs] and not with the information about the Aprilia RS-GP.”

Fernandez and Oliveira were 11th and 17th, but both within one-second of the top, during the final day of the Sepang test.

“Thinking back to the test here at the Sepang Circuit, I remember I had a good feeling on the Aprilia when we have been lapping this circuit for the first time and the bike was still very new to us,” Oliveira said.

“I hope that this weekend we can come back to where we belong, although we know it’s not going to be easy. Last time out in Buriram, we also managed to make some steps in the right direction, so we stay open and focused.”

While Oliveira will be looking to break back into the top ten for the first time since Misano, Fernandez is confident he can fight for the top 6-7.

“I arrive in Malaysia with a very good feeling. The last two races, I came back to the garage with some great sensations and felt I was strong,” he said.

“So basically, I want to continue with this and try to show that we are in a position now, that we can fight with the top 6 or top 7, which is our target for the final rounds; we aim to be there consistently, also to be ready for next year straight away.

“For my mind, for the team and for everybody, I think it will be very important to end these final three rounds in decent positions.”

Oliveira is 15th and Fernandez currently 20th in the world championship standings.

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