MotoGP™ SPEED: “IT DOESN’T SCARE YOU…BUT IT DOES MAKE YOU WONDER”
As 2020 MotoGP reaches the Red Bull Ring for the second time this season, Miguel Oliveira talks about existence at 340kmph plus.
In the depths of Styria, Austria the Red Bull Ring presents MotoGP with one of the fastest and most jaw-dropping outings of the season. 4.3km and 10 corners are taken in just over one minute and 20 seconds with a MotoGP machine. Average speeds hit more than 180kmph as the course winds up and down a 65m elevation change. The radar gun catches bikes at 311kmph (almost 200mph) at the quickest point.
Race fans gather at the venue in Spielberg as much for the speed and spectacle as for the lush scenery and sense of occasion. For 2020 the grandstands are silent, but KTM fans and followers can still feel part of this weekend’s Grands Prix thanks to the ultra-limited KTM Fan Package and partially bask in some of the MotoGP vibe that has been present since 2016 when the circuit re-joined the FIM world championship calendar.
The Red Bull Ring will not bustle and echo with the presence of public like normal, but the riders themselves are not immune to the facility’s charms as well as the deceptive nature of what seems like an ‘easy’ course. “There are very few tracks with such a beautiful setting; you see the mountains and it’s surrounded by nature,” says Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira, a racer who was 0.2 of a second from Moto2™ victory in 2018 and set his best classification in the MotoGP class with eighth place in 2019.
“When we first went there, I remember thinking the layout was very, very simple – perhaps the simplest we’ve had in many years. I thought it would be a bit boring to ride but actually it is one of the best tracks we have! Even though there are a lot of straights, hard-braking and right-hand corners, it has something special. It is very challenging. The technical side is interesting, and it is not boring at all. Obviously the faster the bike is then the more fun it is.”
Oliveira knows the feeling of success in Moto3™ and Moto2 and is making rapid strides in the premier class, with a berth at the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team to come in 2021. If there is an athlete that is familiar with the intricacies of competition in the top-flight then it is Portugal’s sole representative in MotoGP, who is now enjoying his second term on the KTM RC16 and against ‘the big boys’.
So, we quizzed the 26-year old on the feeling of MotoGP speed and in particular around the lush landscape of the Red Bull Ring.
You spent three seasons in Moto2 before pushing up to MotoGP. At a place like Red Bull Ring do you really get an appreciation for the speed difference between the classes and the motorcycles?
“It feels different…but because you have such a long time from one year to the next you already start building up your mental reference based on the speed of the MotoGP bike. I had half a year to get used to it before we raced there in 2019. It is a bit scary because coming into the track you know that the bike is going to be fast and you have to handle the braking points very strongly. You need to be very precise. It’s doesn’t completely scare you…but it does make you wonder.”
Does the speed of MotoGP faze you anymore? Or is it just part of the job now?
“More so when I first tried the bike. It still amazes me to watch MotoGP outside of the track. I think – because we ride the bike many times and we take everything to the limit – then [riding] is not as fascinating as watching it! Sometimes you still get impressed by the acceleration of the bike when you are onboard but, in general, I think it’s more interesting to watch trackside: you get a real appreciation for the speed, what we are doing and how we stop the bikes in such a short time; that is pretty amazing.”
So, it’s a situation where you are slowing down something that seems so fast…?
“Exactly. It is all perspective. We are all sat ‘inside’ the bike and with a very narrow point of view. We’re only looking forward and all we really see is asphalt and other bikes that are more or less going the same speed as you. You don’t really have too much of the speed factor of passing a stationary object. I used to go to the end of the pitlane when MotoGP sessions were starting and I’d think ‘wow! How is this guy braking for the next corner when the front wheel is still in the air! How do they manage that?!’ It was amazing to watch from the outside. I’m not saying that it’s not awesome to ride the bike itself…but the wow factor is not the same as watching it from the fence.”
Is your ‘world’ just a series of markers and rear wheels and distance?
“I think it is like driving on the highway: you have a car next to you and in front of you and that becomes the reference, you know? Apply that but three-four times faster! At least that’s how your brain operates.”
Does the level of speed reach a point where you don’t notice if you are going much faster?
“Speed, for us, is not something you can tell too much with feeling. Once we are on the straight then we are tucked in and out of the wind. When it comes to sitting up and braking then the feeling you have from very high speed is that you are not going to stop! The first half-a-second when you roll-off and grab the brake and head into the corner, in that short moment your brain is like ‘Argh! Maybe I’m not going to stop’ but then, obviously, you get used to having that sensation. I think your brain just gets used to processing images and handling that speed. Braking from 320 or from 280 is a very small margin. You cannot tell the difference.”
What about tackling the limits at a place like Red Bull Ring?
“Red Bull Ring with the fans is something really special. Riding for KTM you feel that way. Also, you feel like you are riding around a very old layout but with the modern-day needs of a racetrack. Everything is beautifully done: the tarmac is really smooth, hardly any bumps. It’s a privilege to ride a MotoGP bike there.”
You can still be a part of the Grand Prix der Steiermark on August 23rd thanks to the KTM Fan Package. Click here to see the details and hurry while stocks last.
To find out about KTM’s special 2021 ticket offer, The Ultimate Orange MotoGP Experience, please click here.