Mahindra’s man takes fight-back fourth in Japan
Mahindra MGP3O rider Miguel Oliveira produced a hero’s ride in today’s Japanese Grand Prix – overcoming a sixth-row start to fight his way through to fourth place in the race in a fine demonstration of speed, skill and aggression.
The 18-year-old from Portugal had been caught out by conditions: on the only Indian machine in international bike racing to visit the challenging Twin Ring Motegi circuit. Foul weather courtesy of Typhoon Francisco meant all free practice was cancelled, with just one wet session to determine grid positions. Working to refine set-up, Oliveira qualified 18th in the lottery; team-mate Efrén Vázquez 21st.
Race day was dry, but one more practice session on a track with damp patches was cut short by swirling fog, though sunshine greeted the starting grid for Moto3, the first race of the day.
Vázquez’s luck remained bad: he made a good start and was gaining position when another rider brought him down. But Oliveira was riding like a man possessed, slicing through his rivals to gain seven places on the first lap alone. He took fifth place on the eighth of 20 laps of the 4.801-km circuit in hilly country north of Tokyo. By now the leaders were too far ahead, but Miguel drew safely clear of his defeated rivals, and was promoted to fourth when one of the leaders crashed out ahead of him.
Eighteenth equalled his worst previous qualifying position at Austin, Texas (compared with pole at Assen and three other front-row starts). The feisty teenager finished a fighting fifth in that race.
The Mahindra MGP3O was designed and built in record time over the winter for its first race-development year, and proved competitive from its debut. Two races ago, Oliveira claimed a historic first-ever top-three podium for an Indian team and motorcycle.
The season finale is at Valencia in Spain in two weeks, where Mahindra still has the chance to take second overall in the Constructors’ Championship, just nine points behind its nearest rival Kalex-KTM. Oliveira is secure in sixth overall, but has the possibility of claiming fifth; while Vazquez is in the battle for eighth.
Footnote: Brad Binder, riding Ambrogio Racing’s first customer Mahindra, was tenth at Motegi, putting two of the exclusive Indian machines in the top ten.