By Paulo Araújo
Pre-season test sessions always on top show the time has come for the sole Portuguese in MotoGP:
THE RIGHT RIDER, ON THE RIGHT BIKE, AT THE RIGHT MOMENT!
In fact, the youngster from South Lisbon’s Costa da Caparica was the fastest right away in the first round of tests in Valencia, and for good measure repeated the feat with his Red Bull KTM in Jerez a fez days ago.
On the first test day, he was the fastest, ending with the 3rd. chrono after the 3-day test. Apart from a race-simulation, he sprint-raced to a 1:42,316s, which would have given him the pole for the previous Spanish GP ran at that track.
Going back to 2015, his biggest career wins had come with the same team that he now returned to, Ajo Motorsport. At the time, in Moto3, his KTM could not compete in the early races with the superior top speed and acceleration of eventual winner Danny Kent’s Honda.
The Brit would manage that advantage to win by a mere six points, with Oliveira dominating the season-end races, winning 4 of the last 5 encounters – and making the whole of Portugal dream in the process… his arrivals back at Lisbon Airport became the stuff of legend, with more and more TV crews joining the hundreds of fans hoping to catch a glimpse or selfie with their hero…
It was with natural dismay that the same fans saw the racer-dental medicine student line up in Moto 2 last year for a nightmare season, struggling with a little-competitive ride, that spat him off time after time, the best achieved two lowly 9th. places, nine races gone by with no points scored.
The end result of a long season, which now extends to 18 Grand Prix, was a disappointing 21st place and a meager total of 36 points…
Now, that seems all left behind for 2017: Miguel, refreshingly modest but articulate amongst the often-awkward young riders of the class – speaking fluent English, Spanish and Italian – fits like a glove in the Ajo KTM formation, ran by former Finn GP rider Niklas Ajo, that, true to his Red Bull main sponsor, has only one aim: win whatever they enter.
The reencounter may have seemed inevitable, but the competition remains fierce… names like Alex Marquez, Thomas Luthi, Franco Morbidelli, Takaaki Nakagami, or Mattia Pasini. The proof of the pudding is next weekend of March 26th. in Qatar… fingers crossed!