Miguel Oliveira was the standout KTM RC16 racer at the Motul TT Assen Grand Prix and the ninth round of 2021 MotoGP as the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider ran to 5th position in the Netherlands.
18 bends, flicks and dips formed the challenge presented by the TT Circuit Assen and one of the pillars of Grand Prix racing. The upheaval of the pandemic-influenced 2020 schedule meant that championship missed the Dutch stop and passionate collective of MotoGP fans last summer.
Miguel Oliveira came to the Netherlands hunting a fourth consecutive podium finish after classifying as runner-up in both Italy and Germany and seizing victory in Spain. The Portuguese began the 26-lap 118km distance from 6th on the grid. Tech3 KTM Factory Racing pair Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona blasting off from 13th and 18th respectively while Brad Binder had to bustle back from 21st.
Oliveira held onto the group running for podium positions behind breakaway leader Fabio Quartararo. With five laps to go he was 5th and jostling for space with Joan Mir and Johann Zarco until the trio dispersed and he had to settle.
Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Danilo Petrucci gathered three points for passing the flag in 13th place. The Italian was just behind Binder, who had made reasonable progress from the final row to take 12th. Iker Lecuona crashed into the final chicane with seven laps remaining and with the chance of posting one of his strongest results of the season.
26-year old Oliveira has made strong gains in the championship standings and now sits 7th with only 24 points adrift of 3rd. Binder is next on the list in 9th.
MotoGP now enters a summer break with a hiatus lasting until the first two weekends of August. The Grands Prix of Styria and Austria will take place at the Red Bull Ring for a high-speed double header to start the second half of the season.
Miguel Oliveira: “A tough weekend but we’re happy to take home a 5th place and finish this period of four races in the top five and with decent points. This was the best we could hope for today and now we’ll take a rest. We’re fully motivated to continue the work once the summer is over and we get into the second half of the season.”
Brad Binder: “Difficult race for me. Starting in 21st and trying to pass the guys in the beginning, and then I clearly didn’t have the speed in the first stages of the race. As the laps went down I started to improve my riding at different points on the track and went quicker. At the end I could match my quickest time on the last lap. I’m glad I made an improvement, but I lost too much time early on. It was an up-and-down weekend and I got a bit lost but I gave ‘my all’ in the race. I was a bit disappointed with 12th but we’ll re-group and come back stronger in the next phase of the season.”
Danilo Petrucci: “In the end we were able to score some points. It was a difficult race because at the beginning I had to recover many positions and I had a lot of fights. I maybe used the rear tyre too much and was not able to stick with Brad [Binder] in front of me. But anyway, regarding the fact that I had to start from P18, it was good to finish and get some points. I gave my best. For sure we have to improve Qualifying for the next races.”
Iker Lecuona: “I felt strong in the race. I overtook some riders but lost a lot of time fighting with another rider. There I lost the contact to the front group but my pace good enough to stay in P11. I was fighting with Pol Espargaro but then he started to push a lot and I couldn’t follow him anymore. At least I managed to defend my position and then I made a mistake. I touched the white line and lost the front. I need to say sorry: I had a very strong weekend but it was also important to finish the race before the summer break. I didn’t finish but, in general, I’m still happy about my improvements.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “We knew this track would be tricky for us. We didn’t race here last year and then FP2 was wet so we lost some valuable. When you cannot achieve all your goals but also score 5th position we have to be happy. Miguel was strong in that group and Brad suffered from qualifying. He was a rookie here on the KTM RC16 but was making good lap-times by the end. It was some more experience for him. Iker was having such a good weekend and his crash was a shame. We feel sorry for him because it had been a good performance. Danilo was just behind Brad and, overall, we need to think about what we can do better for when we next come to Assen. Now we have the summer break and it’s good for everybody because it has been a demanding season so far with the travel restrictions. We have two riders in the top ten in the championship and Miguel has been one of the top points scorers from the last four races. We’ve made good progress and it’s a nice situation to be in when we next come together for two home GPs.”
Results MotoGP Motul TT Assen 2021
1. Fabio Quartararo (FRA) Yamaha 40:35.031
2. Maverick Viñales (ESP), Yamaha +2.757
3. Joan Mir (ESP), Suzuki +5.760
4. Johann Zarco (FRA) Ducati +6.130
5. Miguel Oliveira (POR), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +8.402
12. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +21.676
13. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing +27.783
DNF. Iker Lecuona (ESP), Tech3 KTM Factory Racing