Having put together a formidable Moto2 season and finishing third in the championship in 2017, KTM’s debut year in the class, great things were expected from Miguel Oliveira this year. He has so far fulfilled those expectations, currently sitting third in the 2018 standings, having notched up three podium finishes from four races. These results have been enough to impress KTM, with the Portuguese youngster being offered the Tech3 KTM seat for 2019.
This will be something of a homecoming for Oliveira, with the 23 year old having started his Grand Prix career in the KTM Red Bull Rookies Cup.
"It is very early in the season but I am really happy that KTM have seen enough from this year, and the last, to trust me and believe I deserve this opportunity in MotoGP," Oliveira said.
Oliveira has been instrumental in developing the KTM Moto2 bike, and he gave the Austrian manufacturer its first win in the class in 2017. In doing so, he has earned the trust and confidence of the KTM factory, prompting it to offer him a spot in the premier class.
KTM has been working on developing a career pathway for young riders, allowing them to start in the Rookies Cup and step up through the classes, progressing all the way up to MotoGP; Oliveira is the first product of this programme.
“This is an emotional step for us because it proves all what we have said about building a structure in this paddock and being able to come from the Red Bull Rookies Cup, go through the classes with us and end up in a MotoGP team,” KTM motorsport boss, Pit Beirer, said.
Oliveira will step aboard the 2019 KTM RC16 MotoGP machine next year, a motorcycle that has already seen five top-10 finishes in MotoGP over the last year in the hands of three different riders. The KTM has proven to be a fast-improving bike on the grid, and with Red Bull bankrolling the factory KTM effort, its rate of progress has been remarkable. In the span of a few months, the RC16 has gone from a dead-last finisher to a consistent point-scorer. However, KTM is still placed last in this year’s championship, and has some way to go before it can consistently challenge the likes of Aprilia and Suzuki in the constructor’s championship.
Further helping Oliveira’s case is the fact that all four KTM bikes featuring on the grid next year will be exactly the same spec, with no disparity between the factory and satellite motorcycles, as is often the case.
Given the results produced so far this year by Pol Espargaro and test-rider Mika Kallio in his wild card appearances, we can expect Oliveira to consistently challenge for points finishes once he gets to grip with the Michelin tyres, carbon-ceramic brakes and Magneti Marelli electronics that are all exclusive to MotoGP.
While both Factory seats at the Red Bull KTM team have already been filled by Johann Zarco and Pol Espargaro, the position alongside Oliveira in the Tech3 garage remains vacant for now. There seems to be a strong possibility that Tech3 boss Herve Poncharal will choose to retain current Tech3 Yamaha rider Hafizh Syahrin, with the Frenchman being deeply impressed by Syahrin’s performances so far in his rookie season. More news as we get it!