Brilliant Podium Return For Mahindra In Spain
Aspar Mahindra rider Pecco Bagnaia claimed his second top-three podium finish of the four-race-old season at the Spanish Grand Prix today, keeping his head in a fearsome front-runner battle that lasted the full 23 laps of a typically intense Moto3 race.
Bagnaia had put the Mahindra MGP3O in third place at the opening round in Qatar. The Spanish podium return marks the start of the European season, and confirms the confidence of the only Indian constructor in the World Championship that the more traditional and technical European circuits will better suit the sweet handling of the all-new 250cc racer.
With machine development still at an early stage, Aspar Mahindra riders Bagnaia and Jorge Martin had kept the points coming in over the next two races in Argentina and the USA; and hopes were high for a strong result in Spain after Bagnaia qualified a strong fourth.
The 19-year-old Italian was promoted to the front row when pole qualifier Brad Binder (KTM) was put to the back for a technical infringement – and he made the most of it from the start.
Bagnaia led on the track twice over the 23 laps of the 4.423-km circuit in the south of Spain, holding on strongly and awaiting a last-lap climax as a three-bike battle became four-way when Binder caught up. The South African managed to move clear to claim a classic career first win, riding from last to first.
The last lap saw the remaining trio – Bagnaia, his fellow VR46 Academy graduate Nicolo Bulega (a GP rookie) and Spaniard Jorge Navarro – exchange places repeatedly, each hunting for any advantage. They were still virtually side by side into the crucial final hairpin. Bulega’s KTM was narrowly in front over the line, then Bagnaia and long-time race leader Navarro (Honda). Second to fourth was covered by less than two tenths of a second.
The team’s joy did not extend to second rider Martin, an early crash victim after he was hit by another rider soon after the start.
The next round is the French GP at Le Mans, another twisty circuit where Bagnaia finished third on the 2015 Mahindra MGP3O.
PECCO BAGNAIA – Third Place
“That was a really, really difficult race. Navarro took a really fast pace from the start to stay in front. Because he was so fast, I tried to stay behind him and pass him in the final lap. Finally I finished third. Congratulations to Nicolo for a great race, and thanks to Mahindra and the team: the bike was really good, and I am looking forward to the next races coming up.”
MUFADDAL CHOONIA – CEO Mahindra Racing
"Two podiums in the first four races of a season is the best start for us as a constructor since we began grand prix racing. Once again, Pecco proved that he has the talent of a champion – congratulations to the VR46 Academy in Italy, which is producing such a lot of talent for the Moto3 grid. Results like this really motivate us to push even harder to keep improving. We started with our technical update plan from this Jerez GP onwards and we will continue to bring in important updates over the next two or three races.”