Miguel Oliveira takes fans to the Portimao Circuit on KTM M…
Portuguese motorcycle racing hero Miguel Oliveira kicked off this weekend’s upcoming Portuguese Grand Prix as he rode his KTM RC16 MotoGP bike on the roads with an armada of fans behind him.
Oliveira led the crowd of Portuguese motorcycle enthusiasts from downtown Portimao to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve where the fourth MotoGP race held at the circuit will take place this weekend.
Oliveira became the first Portuguese Grand Prix winner when he won the 2015 Moto3 race at Mugello and then the country’s first premier class winner when he won the Red Bull Ring in 2020.
The #88 also won its home race in its first appearance on the Grand Prix calendar as the 2020 season finale.
However, at the two Portimao races in 2021, his form was more like his first world championship race in Portimao: the 2016 12 Hours of Portimao World Endurance Championship race. Then he rode a Yamaha R1, sponsored by the circuit, with another well-known Portuguese driver, Miguel Praia. This 2016 endurance race is probably best known for the front run, which saw GMT94 Yamaha win against SERT Suzuki in a racing duel between the two who finished just 0.012 seconds apart at the flag. .
Oliveira crashed a lot this weekend, but showed a lot of speed at the same time. Unfortunately for Oliveira, he hasn’t shown much speed in both races – Argentina and America – since winning Indonesia earlier this year in Round 2, and it has to be said that in 2021 he hasn’t neither showed much speed. on the way for two DNFs (the second thanks to an ambitious Iker Lecuona).
The complaint of Oliveira and all KTMs in Austin was rear-wheel drive. Oliveira and Raul Fernandez of Tech 3 KTM elected to ride the medium compound rear tire in Texas due to wear issues, and Oliveira finished 18th. Brad Binder, on the other hand, might have finished ninth if he hadn’t come into contact with Johann Zarco in the final stages of the Grand Prix of the Americas, the South African having used the soft compound rear tyre.
Luckily for KTM, and by extension Oliveira and his army of fans, rear-wheel drive isn’t the critical thing at Portimao, as there are almost no hard acceleration zones in slow-speed corners.
For example, turn one is between second and third gear and leads directly to turn two, which is just a setup for turn three with no way out; which leads directly to turn four.
Turn four is one of the trickiest on the track, as the rider hasn’t touched the left side of the tire since exiting turn 13 in first or second gear, so losing the front end is quite easy , although it is quite steep uphill. It also peaks when the rider tries to open the throttle, making it one of the most traction dependent corners on the track.
However, the most traction-dependent corner on the track is not turn four – in fact it’s not even one turn, but two: turns five and six. They follow one another on the exit of the fifth double left corner which will be the bane of Michelin’s rear tires this weekend, as the pilots balance traction and handling with wheelspin and cornering from the moment they open the accelerator in middle of turn. five, until they let off the gas and grabbed the brake in turn seven.
Turn seven itself is a corner that does not demand anything from the rear tyre, as it is primarily a deceleration zone for turn eight, although the exit is made critical by the white line on the outside which surprised many pilots in the past.
Assuming the rider passed turn seven unscathed, he immediately arrived at turn eight, which would be a critical corner for traction if the hill he was sending the riders did not peak 150 meters after the apex.
Instead, turn eight is critical because the line you make of it determines how much anti-wheelie the rider needs, and therefore how much speed they carry, on the ridge between turns eight and nine. Get the line right, and the rider can lean over the ridge just enough to naturally reduce wheelie with as little electronic aid as possible, and with about as close to a ‘scrub’ as possible. “Motocross you’re going to get on an asphalt track. However, go too far and the rider has to lean too far to get back to the right side of the track to prepare for turn nine, which at the crest means more force through the tires and a point where the bike becomes light which can lead to the kind of near-disaster that Aron Canet faced in 2020.
On the other hand, coming out of turn eight too tight will mean the rider has to be straighter on the ridge so they don’t go off track on the right side, which means they can’t “scrub” (another times, not a scrub, but as close as possible) to the ridge, and they require more anti-wheelie and rear brake to control the vertical movement of the front tire.
Thus, turn eight and the race to turn nine are extremely complicated. And, once you get to turn nine, you’re already out of it, because it’s so fast. Without braking, the driver leans into turn nine and, on the exit, already begins to apply the brake for turns 10 and 11, which merge into one on the plateau between turns nine and 12.
Turn 11 is similar to Turn 8 in many ways, as the pilot must fly the correct line to maximize airspeed and minimize nose-up, but must also stay as far to the right as possible to maximize the angle of Turn 12, which leads directly in the braking zone of turn 13.
Turn 13 is where we saw impressive moves from Pedro Acosta last year, on the first MotoGP trip of the year to Portimao, and later in the year from Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea, who have had some of their fiercest battles of a 2021, which was filled with powerful duels, in the Algarve.
Two corners to do now, and turn 14 is another where traction is quite important, because the throttle is used a lot in the middle of the corner to turn, so spin management on the exit is important, because the rear has to be settled to enter the lightning-fast Turn 15, which descends almost as soon as the rider has the bike on his lap.
Turn 15 tracks in a fairly long straight. However, the speed on exiting corner 15 is such that, unless it is destroyed, the rear tire does not undergo too many stresses in terms of slippage and grip. However, in terms of strength, turn 15 is quite critical, as the turn bottoms out as the rider presses hard on the throttle, with a fairly large bank angle, then climbs up to the right pit plateau at the above the ridge, causing the second and final non-friction of the lap.
Thus, the Portimao circuit is an intense lap, with almost no rest for the driver and where each corner is a challenge that defines itself not only by itself, but also by the challenges that preceded it and that precede it. But it’s not particularly dependent on traction and – for all the Oliveira and KTM fans who have attended that long-winded, tiring and, let’s face it, relatively uninformed written tour of the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve – this could be the biggest positive ahead of this weekend.
The downside is that the surface is fairly low grip, and Yamaha – which notoriously struggles with traction, albeit in a different way to KTM – has struggled badly in all three Portimao races so far (Yamaha has was saved by Morbidelli in 2020 but he was on the 2019 bike which was performing much better at the end of that season than the factory bike and in the first race last year they were saved by Quartararo who won, but Maverick Vinales on the same bike was 11th and Valentino Rossi crashed). And what that means is that after all, traction could be a big deal. We will find out on Friday.