Red Bull KTM closed an intense but memorable 2020 MotoGP campaign with Miguel Oliveira romping free of the pack to win his second race of the season at the challenging Algarve International circuit for the Grande Prémio MEO de Portugal. Oliveira’s home GP success was the company’s third victory from fourteen rounds. Pol Espargaro ensured two KTM RC16s in the top four and finishes the year 5th in the championship and Albert Arenas clinched the Moto3 crown in Portimao.
The fifteenth and final outing for MotoGP this year could not have found a more spectacular setting. The flowing course of the ‘Autodromo Internacional do Algarve’ was new to the FIM World Championship and hosted Portugal’s first Grand Prix since 2012. The MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 classes had to learn the trajectory and refine their motorcycles for the fastest lap-times through extended practice sessions and under prolonged sunny skies.
Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira was the quickest to adapt and blazed to his first Pole Position in MotoGP (and for his country) on Saturday. He headed Pol Espargaro in 9th and Brad Binder in 13th with official KTM test rider, Mika Kallio, deputizing for the absent Iker Lecuona on the other Red Bull KTM Tech3 RC16 also on the grid.
Come Sunday and Oliveira put the race beyond doubt from the opening laps. The 25 -year old, completing his second term in MotoGP and the last race for the Tech3 squad before he transfers into the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing squad for 2021, was dominant from the lights to the flag for his second set of 25 points this term.
Espargaro crossed the finish line in 4th for his last run in Red Bull KTM colors. The Grand Prix brought an end to a special four-year story between the rider and the factory where he achieved KTM’s first rostrum appearance in MotoGP at Valencia in 2018 and reached championship finishes of 17th, 14th, 11th and now 5th.
Brad Binder confirmed his Rookie of the Year distinction even if the race ended early for the South African as he carried too much speed into Turn 1 and crashed. Kallio reached the checkered flag in 17th and missed Grand Prix points by just two places.
2020 has been a momentous Grand Prix year for Red Bull KTM. The latest version of the KTM RC16 made a progressive competitive step and allowed three different riders to walk the MotoGP podium for a total of eight trophies in 14 rounds. Brad Binder rode to the company’s landmark maiden victory at Brno in the Czech Republic and Miguel Oliveira emerged triumphant from a thrilling three-way dice at the Red Bull Ring in Austria before adding to the spoils in Portugal. In Spain recently Pol Espargaro guided his race bike to two consecutive 3rd place results at Valencia. Red Bull KTM slotted three riders into the top eleven of the final standings and captured a best-ever 4th position in the Constructors standings.
Miguel Oliveira: “It’s unreal. You dream about these kinds of races and to finally be able to do it is incredible: I have no words. My gratitude to all the people and all the fans at home who could not be here today. To my team; it was a great way to make the farewell to Tech3 and give this accomplishment to them. My family didn’t get to see my first win ‘live’, so it is great they were here. It’s an incredible day and very emotional to finish the season on a high and with a strong performance like today.”
Pol Espargaro: “It was not one of my best races but we must be very satisfied with the end result this year and the way to sign-off four years together. To be level on points for 4th in the championship and ahead of many other factory bikes and seeing a KTM take three wins this season is amazing for the company and the project. I’m proud to have brought five podiums and two pole positions. I’m really proud in fact of what we have done together. In a way it is sad to say ‘bye bye’ but I feel to give KTM their best championship finish yet is the best way to go.
Mika Kallio: “To come back to racing is especially hard on the physical side but I managed to do it, so I’m happy about that. I have to admit, that I thought I could do a bit better, ahead of the weekend, but in the end this was the maximum I could do. Somehow, I’m still quite satisfied that I could make the laps quite consistently and repeat the same things, the same speed, the same lap times and no mistakes, which was really important. So, I’m satisfied with that.”
Brad Binder: “All-in-all my rookie year has come to a close and we managed to wrap the Rookie of the Year award, which was a goal starting the season. I made a good start but on the second lap two riders had contact and I was left out to dry. I had to run off track. Coming back I got a great slipstream on the straight but came into Turn 1 too hot and unfortunately it was just enough to lose the front. I tried to save it but went down. It’s a shame because we had the pace to do a good job. It’s been a tough but fantastic season with big highs and low lows! I think all of it will build me up to be a stronger rider next season. I want to say a massive thank you to everyone in the box and the entire team. The feeling is great and we have a competitive package for sure.
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “I’m a big fan of facts and the list of achievements for 2020 speak for themselves and that’s really, really nice. We finished 3rd in the team’s championship and this shows how the spirit is in the box and how we stayed strong in this tough year where so many things happened, and we had to control many emotions. I’m super-happy that Pol is 5th in the championship. When he joined our project he finished 6th with another brand and the goal was always to help him be better. I think he has had a good four years and we wish him all the best for the future. Miguel had an unbelievable race and an unbelievable qualifying showed the level of performance he has reached now by winning with our bike on this very difficult track. Brad was unlucky today but he is Rookie of the Year and he still needed to earn that title. We will not forget his Brno win. He has great potential for the future. 2020 has shown that we are competitive and we will continue to be so after just four years. It is a big credit to the company, the board, the sponsors, Red Bull and everybody that helped us. A big thank you to everyone. Next year we start from zero again but it will be a different kind of ‘zero’ now.”
1. Miguel Oliveira (POR), Red Bull KTM Tech3 41:48.163
2. Jack Miller (AUS), Ducati +3.193
3. Franco Morbidelli (ITA) Yamaha +3.298
4. Pol Espargaro (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +12.626
5. Takaaki Nakagami (JPN), Honda +13.318
17. Mika Kallio (FIN), Red Bull KTM Tech3 +48.410
DNF. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing