KTM’s first foray into the middleweight class of Grand Prix racing since the end of the 250GP class has gotten off to a dream start, after Miguel Olivera took the machine to an impressive fourth place at the Qatar Grand Prix last weekend.
And not only did the Portuguese rider get a flying start to both his and the new machine’s championship, he was able to battle with series front-runners like Takaaki and Alex Marquez in the process – something that bodes well for them in the future.
"It was a very tough race. My start was not very good, but when I started to overtake riders I found a good pace. As the race progressed, I was prepared to follow Nakagami, and sometimes I felt stronger than him, but I knew that if I tried to overtake him, we would lose Tom Luthi and I preferred to wait until later. On the last laps I gave everything, but it was difficult because Nakagami defended very well.
We would not have imagined that working with this brand new KTM, with all the team gaining experience, we would be prepared to be fighting for the podium here in Qatar at the first event of the year. I am very happy to have achieved this, and I want to thank the team for the opportunity they have given me to return to this structure. Also I thank Red Bull, KTM and the whole Ajo Motorsport team for the work they have done this weekend."
However, it wasn’t as perfect a start for his teammate and reigning Moto3 world champion Brad Binder, still struggling physically after a nasty testing crash at the end of 2016, who came home outside the points in 20th.
"At the beginning of the race I felt very good, except when there was a repeat of a problem with the front end that we had detected in today's warmup, which forced me to go long on some corners. I tried to fix it, but I went wide a couple of times. I tried to do my best and finish my first race in the class.
“There is still a long way to go and much work ahead to improve my riding on the Moto2 bike. On the next race weekend I will try to work harder during practice to better understand the bike and prepare the setup for the race. Physically it has been quite hard, because I don't feel 100% with my left arm. I have to focus on Argentina and continue learning."