First Moto3 pole for Mahindra at Assen
Portuguese teenager Miguel Oliveira claimed a small piece of history at Assen today, fighting back to secure the first pole position for the all-new Mahindra, and the first for the only Indian team in motorcycle grand prix racing, in the four-stroke Moto3 class.
In windy and cool conditions with the ever-present threat of rain, Oliveira put in a fast lap early on to put his name at the top of the charts in case the track should become wet. It stayed dry, and with ten minutes remaining, the usual stars moved forward, pushing the Mahindra to fifth position – still a good second-row start.
However, it was not enough for Oliveira. Knowing the MGP3O’s potential was higher, he went out again for a blazing last run that put him back on top. Later in the session another rider equalled his time but nobody could beat it, and Oliveira takes the prime starting position for the first time in his career. His previous best was when he put the Mahindra in second position at Le Mans earlier this year.
Team-mate Efrén Vázquez qualified 17th, in the thick of very close times. The Spaniard is still nursing painful collarbone injuries that were aggravated by a small spill in the morning free practice.
The first Moto3 pole underlines the strong debut of the Mahindra MGP3O, designed and built within six months, and track-tested for the first time less than six months ago. The 250cc four-stroke grand prix racer has proved both competitive and reliable from first shake-down tests, and recent performance upgrades have further strengthened its performance in the hotly contested Moto3 class.
Mahindra claimed a pole position during the two-stroke years, when Danny Webb put the 125cc machine in first position in wet qualifying at Valencia in 2011. This is the first achieved in dry conditions, with either type of machine.
MIGUEL OLIVEIRA – Pole Position
“Yesterday we had some ideas of how to change the setting of the machine for better handling and direction changes, but this morning conditions were very bad so there was no chance to verify them. In the afternoon however, they seemed to work. It was a good qualifying, and I think we deserved this first pole. The bike is performing very well, with no weak areas. Tomorrow’s race will be very difficult, you never know what can happen in big groups of riders, but I will give it everything I have.”
EFRÉN VÁZQUEZ – 17th Position
“After the accident this morning it was a difficult qualifying. I had a little bit of pain and I was a little bit nervous. It was windy and the track surface was very cold. I pushed hard in the first laps and for a while I was third, thinking it might rain. Then I came in and made some changes that turned out to be not perfect. And at the end I was alone, with no group to follow and take a slipstream, and that makes a big difference here.”
MUFADDAL CHOONIA – CEO Mahindra Racing
“This has been a dream performance. We knew that pole would come to Mahindra some time during the season, but we honestly didn’t expect it to come so soon. Everyone knows that the bike was put together for the first time in January. The progress from drawing board to race-track success has been tremendous. The team has made me and Mahindra super-proud.”