European MotoGP, Valencia: Role reversal for Oliveira, Lecuona at Valencia | MotoGP

by Nov 2, 20200 comments

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This weekend’s opening Valencia MotoGP will see a role reversal for Tech3 KTM team-mates Miguel Oliveira and rookie Iker Lecuona.

So far this season it’s been Oliveira, competing in his second MotoGP season, arriving at each new circuit with the benefit of last year’s race experience (although in the case of the double-header events, rookies such as Lecuona have chance to gather plenty of track knowledge by the second weekend).

But when the Portuguese was forced to miss the 2019 Valencia finale due to shoulder surgery, Lecuona was called-up to make an early MotoGP debut in Oliveira’s place.

Oliveira’s Valencia MotoGP knowledge is thus currently limited to the post-season test in 2018, on the previous spec Michelin rear tyres and a very different RC16, but he was a race winner at the track during his Moto2 outings in 2017 and 2018.

“I’m obviously very excited to go to the last three rounds of the championship,” said Red Bull Ring winner Oliveira, who took his fifth top-six finish of the season last time at Aragon. “It has been very intense, so I think we all are finally glad to start the final events with high motivation.

“Valencia is a nice track, the last two times, I raced there, I won, so I’m for sure eager to arrive there. It’s going to be two challenging weekends, we know, with two races back to back at the same place and we need to be ready from the word go.

“Obviously, I’m also very excited for the final round in Portugal, which gives me an extra motivation to go ahead in this triple.”

Oliveira is currently tenth in the world championship, with seventh place Takaaki Nakagami just 13 points ahead.

Lecuona sits 17th, but returns to the Spanish track where he has previously ridden an RC16 for five days (Valencia race and test) having matched his MotoGP best of ninth place last time out.

“I want to try to keep this momentum, because after these two weeks in Aragón I learned a lot, I improved my feeling and I fought with the big guys in the MotoGP World Championship,” said Lecuona.

“So, I want to continue like this, I aim to continue to work and to stay inside the top 10 again. I know I have the level to do this for the remainder of the season:”

Lecuona qualified 19th out of 23 riders one year ago, outpacing full-time Tech3 rider Hafizh Syahrin, but crashed in the race.

Team Manager Herve Poncharal said: “Valencia is always a tough circuit with a MotoGP bike.

“We couldn’t race with Miguel there last year due to his shoulder injury. It was a very first premier class round for Iker though. So, we will be heading kind of into the unknown with the KTM in Valencia and if we see the progress we’ve done since last year, I think we should be a lot more competitive.

“The target is always to fight for the top 8, which is a reasonable target. I hope the weather will be on our side. We are entering November now, which bears a possibility of cold and even wet weather.”

Valencia will be the fifth and final double-header of the season, followed by the Portimao finale, a new event for everyone.

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