Solid start for Mahindra at inaugural Moto3 race
British racer Danny Webb took his brand-new Mahindra MGP30 to a solid finish in its first grand prix – also the first for the brand-new Moto3 class – after overnight adjustments found a significant speed improvement.
The 21-year-old rider had qualified 25th, but rode through from a bad start to finish 18th – just three places out of the points – after overnight work by the Mahindra team showed yet more progress for the single-cylinder 250cc machine. The bike is still in the early stages of development, but moving fast-forward.
Team-mate Marcel Schrötter was not so lucky ... after a good start from 23rd on the grid saw him gain places, up to 18th by lap four. Then he ran into gear-shifting problems, and after five of the 18 laps of the 5.380 km Losail desert circuit, he pitted to retire.
The Mahindra is one of a handful of independently made motorcycles on a 30-plus grid mainly comprising over-the-counter production racers from established racing firms. The Indian automotive giant preferred to develop its own technology, challenging the establishment head on. Mahindra builds the MGP30’s chassis, and runs its own engine development programme in co-operation with Italian engine manufacturer Oral.
The programme is hampered by regulations limiting the number of engines to eight per rider. Improvements can only be done in discrete steps rather than continuously.
Mahindra Group vice-chairman and managing director Mr Anand Mahindra was at the Qatari circuit to watch the new machine’s debut ... and he and the team were cheered by news from Italy that in the national 125 championship, Mahindra had claimed victory at Imola, on a machine ridden by Riccardo Moretti.
Moto3 replaces the classic 125cc class with 250cc single-cylinder four-strokes. Today’s first race was won by Spanish teenager Maverick Vinales on a Honda. The next round is the Spanish GP at Jerez in three weeks.
DANNY WEBB – 18TH POSITION
That was better than I expected after struggling in qualifying. The bike didn’t miss a beat. I got off the line badly, stone last – but I found my rhythm and focused on passing the people ahead, and staying there. We had to grin and bear it this weekend. The engine rules meant we couldn’t do much to improve the engine. We’re at the beginning of development. For sure we can come to the pace up front.
MARCEL SCHRÖTTER – Did Not Finish
I didn’t expect that – I was struggling in practice but we made a step in warm-up and another step for the race and it closed a big gap to the fastest bikes. I was up to 18th and closing on the group in front, from tenth to 16th places, and I was closing. But a problem changing gear meant I had to pull in.
MUFADDAL CHOONIA – CEO Mahindra Racing
A lot of positives came out of today’s race. We made some improvements to engine mapping that really boosted the performance of the engine. Sadly we were far back on the grid, so Danny’s finish was good. Marcel was having a good race and maybe looking at the top ten, but a minor glitch that forced him to retire. Hopefully we’ll be back with a much better performance in Jerez.