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MotoGP

Assen sprint latest letdown for MotoGP 2023’s unluckiest rider

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP’s unluckiest rider of 2023 Miguel Oliveira has been for once slightly fortunate – but only to come away relatively unscathed from Saturday’s sprint race at the Dutch TT.

The RNF Aprilia rider able to just about escape an early move from Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco that nonetheless left him scathing about the Frenchman afterwards.

Oliveira is still essentially riding with limited function in his left shoulder following his last opening lap collision with Fabio Quartararo at the Spanish Grand Prix nearly two months ago – his second injury of the season in similar circumstances after being taken out of his home race at Portimao by Marc Marquez a month before that.

Marc Marquez

Missing two rounds of the championship since then thanks to his wounds, it hasn’t been an easy path back to something close to full fitness at Assen this weekend, especially with the race coming as the third part in MotoGP’s first triple-header of the year.

Things have looked better coming into the Dutch race, a circuit where the Aprilia RS-GP has traditionally been strong, and Oliveira looked set to make up for lost time in Saturday’s sprint when he turned a fourth row qualifying spot into an excellent start that moved him up as high as sixth.

That didn’t last long, though, with an aggressive move from Zarco demoting Oliveira back through the ranks, dropping him to 10th and leaving him fuming.

He insisted Zarco’s move was over the limit – even if it didn’t get any form of sanction from the FIM MotoGP stewards.

“I got a good start, made up some positions,” Oliveira explained, “and between corners 10 and 11 I got overtaken by Zarco. Over the limit. And I was pushed wide. Got overtaken by five riders.

“We went to see [the stewards], because hopefully they check the race on the CCTV and not on the broadcast. If they do they will for sure see it. Yes. But obviously they didn’t.”

Miguel Oliveira

While lucky this time around to escape without contact and without the type of early-race crash that has already twice dented his 2023 season, it still wasn’t plain sailing from there for Oliveira as things went from bad to worse for him.

Falling to 10th in the Zarco incident put him in the path of the Marquez brothers – where in a mistake this time of his own making, he got sucked in between the pair as they slowed for Turn 1 and was forced to take avoiding action. That dropped him down to last, and he was only able to get back to 19th.

“Braking into the first corner, overtaking Marc, Marc was on the outside, I think Alex came and passed both of us,” Oliveira explained.

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“I got kind of in a sandwich in between them and I had to release the brakes to avoid crashing into Alex.

“And that’s it. That’s my race. I was last. Then, yeah. Didn’t bother too much to recover.

“It was kind of like the Mugello funnel, except here [Alex Marquez] was on the inside and I was in the middle. I had to release my brakes, and there’s a lot of run-off area there but it’s outside the track.

“The kerbs are so big that I didn’t want to crash going out, so I ended up last.”

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