Masterful Miguel Oliveira wins in Catalunya, Johann Zarco second & Jack Miller third!
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Masterful Miguel Oliveira wins in Catalunya, Johann Zarco second & Jack Miller third!

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By FORMULAMotoGPMag - 07 June 2021

Author: Myanna Wedes

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya race was excellent from the moment lights went out to the last lap which featured drama, penalties and unchartered territory where new rules came to light that were always there, just never needed. The race was fuelled with adrenaline, pride and Fabio Quartararo wanting to stand in glory once again after a dominant qualifying display. However, it was Miguel Oliveira who led majority of the race and put on a display of confidence with his KTM, a sight that made the Austrian manufacturer incredibly proud and a picture perfect race weekend. The challenge behind Oliveira was between Johann Zarco, Jack Miller and Fabio Quartararo. The battles were incredible with Miller hanging in there with red hot tyres, Zarco pushing to stay at the front for vital points and Quartararo suffering a suit leather malfunction that left him with two penalties and plenty of tongues wagging about the danger involved with his chest completely exposed at full race speed. The Frenchman was penalised for riding without his leather suit correctly fastened, without the required chest protector and also the fact he cut corners.

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team

The critics are loud and in particular former World Champion, Casey Stoner. The former Australian rider was very vocal and believed Quartararo deserved a black flag! This was made known on Twitter with a direct quote regarding his views. Casey Stoner: “Whether or not it was Fabio Quartararo taking his zipper down on purpose, I believe that should have been a black flag. At this level you can’t be allowed to race at 350km + with your leathers open.” Stoner has never been one to shy away from his views on the sport of MotoGP since he retired. In contrast, Cormac Ryan-Meenan a fan favourite photographer on the MotoGP circuit, a rider himself agreed that to let Quartararo ride during a race with lack of protection is ludicrous. Cormac Ryan-Meenan: “I am not in favour of the majority of penalties handed out, but for me this is a black flag on the spot.” We have to agree and as riders ourselves, the idea of exposing any part of your body on a race circuit, out on general roads, any place where two wheels can go, is just crazy! We were quite taken back that Quartararo was allowed to ride on and no doubt, Alpinestars will be investigating the issue and forced to provide answers along with the rider himself. If Quartararo had of crashed, it could have seriously injured or killed him. After the events of last weekend with the death of Jason Dupasquier, more should have been done by the FIM, Dorna and various team personnel including Yamaha/Alpinestars. We are yet to find out what happened to Quartararo’s leathers, whether the airbags went off for a reason, a fault and the fact he had to throw his chest plate out to breathe. The questions will be asked until answers are clear cut.

What are your thoughts on the incident? Do you feel it was a harsh or justified penalty?

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Fabio Quartararo)

Fabio Quartararo:

“Unfortunately I can’t explain what happened yet, we are still looking into it. It’s a bit disappointing but, anyway, we can still be satisfied with our race, because I feel like I gave it 100%. I’m happy because our pace was fast all weekend. In the race I didn’t feel that good. We had a moment in Turn 7. I went wide, then retook the lead, and then had an issue. But getting fourth on a bad day is actually quite good.”

Ducati Corse Press

As this becomes a topic to debate, we must continue to give a high five to the race winner for his display of total focus. Championship title contenders can change at the drop of a hat and if Oliveira continues to stay competitive, injury free, confident and happy with his KTM machine, he may just start to become the thorn in his rivals sides. In terms of the World Championship, Zarco is truly a contender as is Miller. Both Ducati riders did a wonderful job across the weekend to stay ahead of the pack and also push themselves even with a challenging set of tyres. During the race, Zarco was sliding and working the bike to his advantage even at times when he looked like he was going to crash. Whilst Miller ended up in false neutral losing some ground then overheating his tyres and trying to recover by staying out of the slipstream. It was a real master class performance by the Australian rider to think strategy lap after lap with the pressure on his shoulders and Zarco’s to bring home the goods for Ducati together. As Zarco continues to look for a victory, it was the third career win for Oliveira and a true reminder that KTM is back in action. They are earning the results, Dani Pedrosa within the team garage, a strong asset to the insight required to improve the bike. On the other side of the coin, we have Pecco Bagnaia who had a poor race result and blames tyre choice for his lack of performance. Results like these for Bagnia will be hard to manage from an emotional and mental perspective, because he will wonder about what could have been rather than understanding why he made that particular tyre choice. In this sport of competitive motorsport, a tyre can be the reason why you end up in the gravel trap, winning, losing and being tested to the absolute limit. Right now, Bagnia is learning what it means to be under pressure to make a decision about how your race will take place. Mastery is the practice over and over again and with time, Bagnia will find his way. The inspiration from victories like today will propel other riders and encourage them to put forward their best at every race opportunity.

KTM Images/Polarity Photo (Miguel Oliveira)

Miguel Oliveira:

“This is almost hard to put into words. I had one of the best races of my career so far. Everything was so hard; the tire management and keeping my cool when Fabio was putting pressure on me for so many laps. I really kept cool when he overtook me and took my chance on the straight to get him back. It was a perfect race, and I cannot thank the Red Bull KTM guys enough for giving me a perfect machine to get back here to the top of the podium. I also want to thank the fans. Everything has been amazing, having the public here and getting back to normal.”

Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager:

“The emotions are very high! Today shows that the KTM MotoGP project is heading in a great direction. Miguel rode an outstanding race. What a performance. There was not a single mistake through the whole distance and at a difficult track. Brad also had a great race even if he is not too happy but these types of races make riders strong. The Moto2 project is also going really well and it’s so nice to watch. I have to say a big thank you to all the KTM people both at the track and at home in Mattighofen. We have to keep pushing because we can see the progress we make. The race team have been fantastic. The start of the season was not so easy for us but nobody lost belief. We have all kept strong and this is also an achievement.”

Pramac Racing MotoGP Team (Zarco Team)

Johann Zarco:

“I am very happy, it was an incredible race filled with the unexpected and many twists. I tried my best, and second place is a great result. We worked very well and I couldn’t be happier.”

Ducati Corse Press (Jack Miller)

Jack Miller:

“Today, it was crucial to gain some points on Quartararo! In the race, I managed the rear tyre well, while the front tyre was a little overheated all the time, but we still managed to have some great battles. On the last lap, I was very close to Quartararo, and I would have had another chance to pass him, but I saw him cut the chicane, and I knew he would have had to take a penalty because he had gained a lot of time there. So, I tried to stay as close to him as possible and not make any mistakes to secure third place. This is the first time I've been on the podium at Montmeló, and I'm thrilled with this result, both for the whole team and for me!”

Ducati Corse Press (Francesco Bagnaia)

Francesco Bagnaia:

 "Unfortunately, my race today was affected by our tyre choice. We wanted to try the medium, but unfortunately, it did not turn out to be the best solution. I tried to manage the consumption until the end, but I never felt completely comfortable. It was a difficult weekend, and we finished seventh. Now we have to stay focused and try to get back to fighting for the top positions starting from the next race. Tomorrow we will already get back to work during the day of testing that we have here at Montmeló".

CormacGP & Respol Honda MotoGP Team (Marc Marquez)

The one rider who must be finding it difficult to watch KTM celebrate is Pol Espargaro. The Honda rider is having a disastrous season and his motivation to keep positive hard to manage. If you go back to 2020, Espargaro was fast, strong and in the top results. Right now, he is crashing more than ever and the same can be said for Marc Marquez who is also struggling to stay on board the Honda machine. We would say, Honda are in crisis mode. They have traded places with Yamaha when they were puzzled by poor performance and right now, the bike is a challenge to keep upright and enjoy riding. In comparison to Espargaro, Marquez is finding out his limits, who he is as a rider again and believing in himself throughout his recovery journey. The seven laps were MM93 style, precision and risk taking. We watched corner by corner, lap by lap, the Spanish Ant return to a façade of courage that we know is deep down within his heart, the fire ignited and raging to return and not be limited by injury. In fact, Marquez also spoke with Australian World Champion Mick Doohan, who is no stranger to injury, breaking his leg within his career and managing to recover. The injury so severe, some say, he almost lost his leg to potential amputation within a 24 hour period. It was touch and go! The conversation appears to have helped re-shape the Marquez mindset in the best ways possible to enable him to ride with upmost confidence.

Monster Energy Yamaha (Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro)

At this point of the title, we are not convinced Maverick Vinales has let go of the negative energy, on track maneuverers and targets on his back to shake the bad juju and focus on his job: to win! The Spanish rider may live in regret for not taking a different manufacturer contract or he may just wake up and realise he has everything at his finger tips to improve and get the results necessary to be a true title contender. At the start of the year, we were sure Vinales was dynamic enough to charge. Right now, we have doubt that he will erupt at any given moment with anger, frustration and allowing other riders to enter his mindset and cause a stir. ‘Top Gun’ Vinales teammate is dynamic and becoming what Jorge Lorenzo was to Valentino Rossi within the Yamaha structure and the time is on the wall before Yamaha decide on a different rider direction. The same can be said for Alex Rins, as Joan Mir outperforms him and shows Suzuki why a lead rider is required to bring home the points and trophies. The testing schedule on Monday is a very important step for any rider who has questions around bike performance and direction. In addition to this, we do not see Honda getting concessions for 2022 because we feel Marquez is capable of achieving at least one podium finish in the current season. Marquez is of the same vote, whilst others do feel it is impossible and that Honda will probably need the concessions in order to improve. They are behind the eight ball and it is odd to see the dynamic manufacturer middle to back of the pack at a race event.

Pol Espargaro:

“We are having a tough time, we crashed in the race. We chose the hard tyre which was the best tyre given the conditions that we saw today but we are struggling with grip and we are losing time from this. It was a frustrating race, but we need to keep positive and keep working. We need to turn the situation around, there’s still over half the championship to go. Tomorrow there’s a test and we are looking for big solutions.”

CormacGP & Respol Honda MotoGP Team (Marc Marquez)

Marc Marquez:

“My intention today was to start well and push because I thought maybe the others would try to manage their tyres. I gave everything in the beginning because if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have slept well today. Ok, I crashed but I showed to myself that I can do it, so this was one positive. Instead of finishing in 12th or 13th place, today was the day to take some risks. Tomorrow we have a test, it’s an important day – more important than today. We keep working and never give up.”

Maverick Vinales:

“I’m happy. It’s been a very positive race. For sure, when you start there, from the second row, it’s difficult. You are fighting with everyone, and I just lost too much time. On the first lap I lost 3-4 seconds, which is what we missed to be at the front. But at the end of the day, I think we were riding fast. In the middle of the race we had a good pace, and I was managing the tyres quite well, but then I arrived behind Mir. I couldn’t overtake and I was too slow. Anyway, this weekend has been positive. It has given us a lot of motivation and concentration for tomorrow’s test.”

Team Suzuki Ecstar (Joan Mir)

Joan Mir:

“We didn’t make the right decision with the tyres today, I switched to the medium-medium on the grid and then I had to battle against the rear spinning and it was a struggle, especially in the last part of the race. It’s a shame because I felt I had podium pace, but in the end I still achieved 5th place which isn’t bad. I tried my best to manage the situation and stay on the bike. The first four riders in the race had the hard rear tyre and it seems that was the better choice, but we will learn from this mistake - both me as a rider and the team too. Tomorrow we will try a few things and let’s see if there’s something that can help us in the future.”

The next two upcoming races are not the favourite for the Ducati machines, although this year, we have seen many up and down results plus surprises! On the 20th June, we have the Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland followed by the Motul TT Assen on 27th June before an extended summer break with the first race back of that taking place with the Michelin® Grand Prix of Styria in Austria. In the meantime, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on who is the number one contender for the World Championship.

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