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Poncharal on Oliveira: “I’m very impressed by his pace”

Tech 3 boss chats exclusively to about his thoughts after the opening round of the season in Qatar

The newly named Red Bull KTM Tech 3 team, led by Herve Poncharal, got their first taste of race action on the RC16 at the Qatar GP as both rookie Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin got valuable race distance under their belts.

2019 is a brand-new challenge for Tech 3 after they left Yamaha after 20 years of collaboration at the end of 2018. But Poncharal was pleased with how things went at Losail when he spoke to during the week after the opening round of the season.

Introducing Red Bull KTM Racing & Red Bull KTM Tech 3

"We do not necessarily realise it, but this winter we have done a tremendous job,” began the Frenchman. “Trucks - which you have not seen yet - clothes, through the boxes, everything had to be ready in time. It was a real race against the clock, but we have taken up this challenge brilliantly, which makes me very proud. As such, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved.

“We also had the chance to do more tests, since in addition to the Valencia Test, Jerez, Sepang and Qatar, we were able to participate in the three days of Shakedown with the official team. I can tell you that, when arriving in Malaysia, the riders felt a huge difference on the bike compared to November. They were much more confident, especially with the front of the bike, so they were able to deliver clearer feedback and attack more. But it is in Qatar that we really realise that everything starts, because the teams cannot hide their games anymore. It is at this moment that we can gauge ourselves and determine the forces involved.”

Losail offered mixed emotions for Poncharal. In his first MotoGP™ race, Oliveira – despite stalling on the grid and having to start at the back – finished just outside the points in P17, just over a second off Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Johann Zarco and just 16.3 seconds from race winner Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati).

“Overall, I would say we did well. Miguel had qualified with Pol (Espargaro), knowing that the official riders are our reference. Unfortunately, he stalled on the grid; an event almost unnoticed with what happened to Fabio (Quartararo). But unlike him, Miguel was able to leave before the pitlane closed. So, he was still able to take place at the back of the grid and I admit to being bluffed at the start, because at the first corner he had already passed eight (riders).

“He then passed both factory riders, as well as Jorge Lorenzo until reaching 11th place. But he probably used too much of his tyres in the beginning and found himself in trouble at the end... Lack of experience, let's say. As for the bike itself, the performances were quite good, although there is still a lot to work on. Miguel had a very good feeling on it. In any case, I am very impressed by his pace, his calm and his ability to analyse!"

Know your teammate: Oliveira vs Syahrin

On the other side of the garage, things have been a little more complicated for Syahrin as he adapts from the Yamaha to KTM. The Malaysian completed the race in 20th, but Poncharal knows the potential Syahrin possesses and believes it’s only a matter of time before we see Syahrin further up the pecking order.

“It is clear that until now, Hafizh had more difficulties to adapt and this situation really hurts me because he is a boy that's so kind, who gives his all in everything he does,” explained Poncharal. “Anyway, we do not give up and we will do everything we can to help. For some people, adaptation may take a little longer. I know his potential and we’ve seen what his teammate is capable of with the same bike, so this enough to motivate him."

So, what can we expect from Red Bull KTM Tech 3 in Argentina?

“In Qatar, we had the advantage of riding there before. In Argentina, it will be new... or at least for Miguel. Our two riders appreciate the layout. We will continue to move forward and better identify the bike to be as close as possible to the factory pair of Johann and Pol with Miguel, even ahead, knowing that he was close to them in Qatar. In other words, the goal will be to score points. It will not be easy, given the level of the grid. The gaps are incredibly tight, which makes our sport even more exciting this year. But we will fight and overall we had a smile from Qatar.” 

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