Oliveira: 'Martin start', dashboard down, backwards race

Miguel Oliveira riding 'blind' in Doha MotoGP; 'After the start my dashboard went black and didn’t have any information about shifting lights, maps, tyre information. It was all gone'.
Jorge Martin race start, Doha MotoGP race, 4 April 2021
Jorge Martin race start, Doha MotoGP race, 4 April 2021
© Gold and Goose

Miguel Oliveira produced a near replica of Jorge Martin's stunning race start a week earlier in Qatar as the KTM rider powered from twelfth on the grid to third at Turn 1 of Sunday's Doha round.

"It was a normal start, the kind we have been practicing in these times," Oliveira said. "Actually the 0-100k was the same as I do in my practice starts so we did that on the race and my reaction to the lights was good.

"I kept myself together because Bradl was next to me and he moved the bike when the lights were red. In those cases it is easy to anticipate also and jump the start but I kept it together and it was a good start.

"Sometimes these things come out well because when you put the power people are in the middle and you don’t know where to go because there isn’t much space.

"The start was the most positive thing today. It was a backwards race. It started really well and lap by lap I didn’t have it. The bikes was a bit slow changing direction and I couldn’t really make a counter attack on my rivals."

The KTMs had struggled badly for front tyre wear in the opening round, prompting all four to try the medium instead of the soft on Sunday.

But Oliveira also had a far more unusual issue to contend with.

"After the start my dashboard went black and didn’t have any information about shifting lights, maps, tyre information: it was all gone. It was really hard to do the race by pure sensation," revealed the Portuguese.

"I went to a fuel saving map mode and so it become very hard for me to follow anyone and obviously I did not know I was in this mode. It becomes really impossible to follow anyone.

"It makes for a very lonely race and secondly you mid-shift a lot of times. Actually the limiter on the bikes are electronic so it’s not like another kind of bike where you feel it physically retaining once you get to it and because it is so smooth you don’t know if you are under or over-shifting in certain moments.

"On a track like Qatar it super-important to use the shifting lights. I was going by feeling and because we have ridden so many laps here I tried to do it in the same points.

"But of course afterwards I checked with the team and there was not one time where I shifted correctly! It was pretty frustrating. If you shift two-thousandths of a second later the bike is already on the limit for a few metres at 270ph and that slows you down quite a bit. So, we need the dashboard!"

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Oliveira slipped steadily backwards to 15th place by lap 15 of 22, where he remained, crossing the line 8.9s from race winner Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) to complete the closest top 15 in history.

"I did the Martin race from last weekend: he also started quite well but then ended up 15th! By this theory the next weekend will be quite good for me because he ended-up on the podium, so I guess that’s a positive way to look at things," Oliveira joked.

While Qatar has never been kind to the KTMs, the Austrian factory's main concern will be to understand why they have been 'overusing' the soft front tyre compared to their rivals, prompting the switch to the medium on Sunday.

"The decision came after warm-up, we were monitoring the temperature to see if it was really safe or not to use the tyre. But basically we had nothing to lose," Oliveira said.

"We knew if we went out with the soft front we’d run out of tyre after ten laps so we decided to go with the medium and it turned out well.

"Stability under braking and pure braking performance was not the best tyre to use and it had quite a lot of movement but I don’t have the understeer and that’s why we chose to go with the medium front.

"I think the pure character of our bike requires a hard, stiff front tyre to be able to turn the bike and to stop. When we are able to use this stiffness on the front we are usually competitive.

"It is hard to say at this moment that it is the suspension or the frame because it would be very easy to change it."

Team-mate Brad Binder finished as the top KTM rider, in eighth place.

Round three takes place at Oliveira's home circuit of Portimao, where he claimed pole position, fastest lap and victory for Tech3 KTM last November.

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