Photo finish robs Mahindra of second straight podium
Mapfre Team Mahindra rider Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia and his Spain-based team were left feeling robbed in today’s Italian GP, after a second successive top-three podium finish was snatched away by an infinitesimal three thousandths of a second.
The position instead went to home-country hero Romano Fenati (KTM), who crossed the line side by side with the Mahindra. A photo-finish gave him the position by barely the width of a tire.
Bagnaia claimed a career-first podium two weeks ago at Le Mans, and rode like a demon in an attempt to repeat the feat at his home race.
The Italian protégé of Valentino Rossi had started from the third row of the grid, but showing experience and race-craft that belied his 18 years, shot off the line to play a leading role in a mammoth fight round 20 laps of the spectacular and scenic Mugello circuit.
He led out on the 4.185-km lap for the first time on the fifth tour; and although never in front over the line, that position was a lottery. A huge pack – at one stage 16-strong – was slipstreaming and jostling down the long straight; all weighing up tactics for the final sprint.
Bagnaia’s strategy was perfectly timed. He moved back into the top three for the 18th and 19th laps, and was lying second on the final lap, and third on the exit from the final corner.
He was convinced that he had held on to the position; but a photo-finish gave it to Romano Fenati (KTM). The top six flashed across the line within less than four hundredths of a second, behind KTM-mounted inner, ex-Mahindra rider Miguel Oliveira.
Second Mapfre Aspar Mahindra rider Juanfran Guevara crashed out of a points-scoring position in the closing stages, and third rider Jorge Martin was 17th.
Mahindra is the only Indian machine in the World Championship series. The next race is the Catalunya GP at Mugello, in two weeks.
Pecco Bagnaia – Fourth place
I am happy with the result, because it is important to stay at the front for the championship. But I have mixed feelings, because I really tried my best for the podium today, but it was not possible. On the last lap I was second, then Danny Kent passed me in the last corner, and I ran a little wide. So I finished fourth. Now we go to Catalunya, a circuit that I like so much. We will carry on the fight.
Mufaddal Choonia – CEO, Mahindra Racing
I’m shattered. This was probably the most heart-breaking race we have known, after Pecco fought so well. We were all confident that he’d held on to third, but the slow motion video finish seen by the team showed otherwise. In any case, we can be proud of the result. Pecco fought brilliantly, at the front of a very tough race. Again he showed his strength as a rider, and the strength of the Mahindra machine as a consistent podium challenger.