Lap record and best-yet fourth for Mahindra at Mugello
Mahindra rider Miguel Oliveira claimed the only Indian motorcycle grand prix team’s best yet finish at Mugello today with a hard-fought fourth place, and added a new lap record to the books. But the Portuguese star was “a little disappointed”: after leading at the mid-point of the race he missed the top-three podium by less than half a second.
The podium is the next target, but the team had more than enough to celebrate in Italy. The exclusive and all-new Mahindra MGP3O is in only its fifth race after being designed and built in just six months. Already the aim to join the front runners has been achieved.
The race was a thriller from the start, with the Moto3 pack jostling for position on the fast and sweeping 5.245-km Mugello circuit. Oliveira started from the second row and was ninth into the first corner, but seventh and climbing by the end of the lap. He set a new lap record on the fourth lap, and next time round was third. From then on played a major role in a six-strong group that broke away for an enthralling battle to the end. They swapped positions constantly, with Miguel taking his turn up front on lap 15.
The final shoot-out had the crowd holding its breath. Victory went to Luis Salom (KTM) by just 0.099 of a second, with the similarly mounted Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales in his wheeltracks, and Miguel inches behind. Alex Marquez and pole starter Jonas Folger (both KTM) were still close, the top five covered by eight tenths. Wild card and grand prix first-timer Andrea Locatelli was 22nd, in the thick of a tight pack chasing 15th position, with ten riders crossing the line in just over two seconds.
Team regular Efrén Vázquez, still recuperating from collarbone surgery less than two weeks ago, withdrew from the race, but expects to return in better condition at Catalunya in a fortnight. Mahindra Racing CEO Mufaddal Choonia explained: “The team decided Efrén needed a bit more time to recover, and it was prudent not to start, and risk further injury.”
Today’s result regained a clear third place in the Constructor’s Championship for the marque, while Oliveira gained significant ground, now lying seventh overall.
MIGUEL OLIVEIRA – Fourth Place
“It was a difficult race – on the limit every lap to stay with the front group. The slipstream is very important here, so I couldn’t risk losing contact. I’m a little bit upset not to reach the podium, but happy with the whole weekend: good qualifying and race. At the last race I fell while with the front group, and we were up front again here. It gives plenty of motivation to keep pushing for more.”
ANDREA LOCATELLI – 22nd Place
“My first grand prix was quite an experience, fighting with a big group of more experienced riders. The Mahindra was good all weekend, and helped me to keep my place. I am happy with this start.”
MUFADDAL CHOONIA – CEO Mahindra Racing
“Delighted with the result. We were running a little thirsty this weekend because we had no points at the last race. For the moment, the thirst has been quenched. Hats off to Miguel with a fantastic ride, and hats off to the technical team who put together a bike that could help him stay with the leading group throughout the race, and fight for the podium. We know where we have to work to improve, and we will be back to the drawing board to find what’s missing. The bike is strong already, and it is always harder to find improvements when you are already at a high level. We look forward to Catalunya, and hope Efrén will be back to full fitness and racing at this next round.”