Miguel and Mahindra make racing history in Malaysia
Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira made history for India’s first and only motorcycle constructor in international motorcycle racing today, fighting back from a weak start to claim a first-ever top-three podium finish for Mahindra’s MGP3O Moto3 racer.
The 18-year-old from Pragal qualified on the second row, but bogged down off the line, near the back of 32 riders into the first turn, and finished the first lap in 14th place. But he was already cutting his way through, and by lap five was with the big leading group and still gaining places. On lap three, he set a new lap record, for the third time this year.
By the mid-point of the 18-lap, 99.864-km race at the Sepang circuit outside the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, Miguel was moving to fourth in a fearsome close group, and then to third. But positions were changing from corner to corner as the top championship contenders fought tooth and nail.
There were still six in contention as they started a thrilling last lap. Oliveira fought like a tiger to retain third place, the first rostrum for the MGP3O in its first season of racing. The 250cc single-cylinder machine, still in its first year of development, was designed and built in record time over the winter, and has threatened the top machines ever since its debut.
Miguel was just 0.408 seconds behind winner Luis Salom (KTM). The first six crossed the line within just over one second.
The podium has been tantalizing the team all season. Oliveira has qualified on pole position at earlier races, and has been fourth on three occasions.
Team-mate Efrén Vázquez made a flying start from eighth on the grid, and was holding his own in the leading pack, and fighting for position when he slipped off on a slow corner, remounting only to retire.
The result is a historic achievement for Mahindra and for India, and a valuable boost for the championship. Miguel has closed to within six points of a top-five position. Mahindra has also gained ground on second place in the Constructors’ championship, just five points off second place.
The next race, the second of three in a row, is the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island next Sunday.
In another important step for the team, Mahindra Racing has also signed a new agreement to add another pair of Mahindra MGP3O machines to the Moto3 grid in 2014. French team CIP Moto3 will run two of the Swiss-built, Indian racers in the ultra-competitive grand-prix class.
The deal means that six of the competitive prototype 250cc single-cylinder Mahindra race bikes are scheduled to be on the grid in 2014, with CIP joining the official Mahindra Racing entry as well as Ambrogio Racing. The Ambrogio team became Mahindra’s first racing customer in September when South African Brad Binder and Germany’s Luca Amato switched to the MGP3O for the remainder of this season.
MIGUEL OLIVEIRA – Third Place
“After the start I made I didn’t expect the podium! I knew I could do it, but I had to recover a lot of time, and take a lot of risks in the first laps, in the braking areas and also with corner speed. This is not easy on the tyres, so in the last laps it was really hard to control the bike. I think Mahindra and the team deserve this podium, and I think more. With the end of the championship coming up the leading riders will feel the pressure, and we can try to take advantage of that.
“Phillip Island is a nice track, where you don’t need so much engine power. It’s always windy, and it depends on the compromise you can make with the frame and on aerodynamics, my position on the bike. There are a lot of long corners and banked corners and also hard braking, and I can gain time there. I was second there last year, so I’m looking forward to going back.”
EFRÉN VÁZQUEZ – Did Not Finish
“I had a good start and I was trying to push from the beginning. This is a difficult track because the other bikes are much slower on corner entry, they block the way so you lose speed on the straights. I was trying to brake a little harder to gain places, and I lost the front wheel. It was a little crash, but unfortunately something on the bike broke, and I couldn’t restart.
“We’ll see in the next race: I think Phillip Island should be good for Mahindra – our bike is very good in fast corners.”
MUFADDAL CHOONIA – CEO, Mahindra Racing
“This is a red-letter day in Indian motor sport history – the first time ever that a motorcycle developed by an Indian company has finished on the podium at the highest level of motor sport. I sincerely congratulate and appreciate the efforts of Miguel and the entire Mahindra Racing team, who played a leading part in creating this moment of racing history.
“Now the next goal: we look forward to winning grand prix races.”