Sepang International Circuit, 30 October 2016: Aspar Mahindra Team’s Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia surged to his second and the MGP3O’s third win of the 2016 season at today’s Malaysian GP, taking the lead on lap two, then surviving a race of attrition as his closest rivals joined an ever-growing crash list.
The win, at the 5.543-km circuit close to Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport, was a massive boost to the Italian teenager’s hopes of finishing high up in the championship, lifting him back to third overall after losing ground in recent races as the victim of other riders’ errors.
It was Mahindra’s third win this year, with John McPhee taking sister-manufacturer Peugeot’s MGP3O to victory at Brno, confirming the strength of the only Indian constructor in the World Championships, on the day that the nation is celebrating the festival of Diwali.
Bagnaia’s first win of the year was at Assen in the Netherlands, by a margin of 0.030 of a second, typical in the closest class in the series. Today’s victory was by a yawning gulf of 7.108 seconds, after he was the sole survivor when three riders fell out of the leading group on the second lap.
At that point he lay third in a close pack. Now Pecco was alone, and from there he had only to focus and concentrate, on a track where treacherous conditions saw only 17 finishers out of 31 starters.
After 14 of the scheduled 18 laps had been completed – more than the required two-thirds distance for a full result – the race was red flagged, with results taken from lap 13.
Bagnaia had been a candidate for victory even without the crashes of his rivals. Strong throughout practice in wet or dry conditions, he had qualified on the front row of the grid for the third time this year, and set fastest time in morning warm-up. In fact, Pecco was never lower than third at the end of any session at the Malaysian GP.
Second Aspar Mahindra Team rider Jorge Martin was one of many crash victims, involved in a multi-bike accident on only the first lap. The Spanish teenager got to his feet and escaped serious injury, but was later helicoptered to hospital to investigate a concussion.
Independent Mahindra team riders fared well with Marcos Ramirez sixth, repeating his first top ten of the previous weekend in Australia; and Darryn Binder likewise, finishing tenth. Stefano Valtulini and Lorenzo Petrarca also scored points, for 13th and 14th.
The Malaysian GP was the last of a trio of consecutive flyaway races. The season comes to an end at Valencia in two weeks.
Francesco Bagnaia – First Place
“I think this is the hardest race of my life. I was pushing to my best. When I saw I had opened the gap to second I thought I needed to concentrate more and I focused on the win. To win today is a great result after a sometimes tough season, especially recently. This is the third win for Mahindra and my second win, truly an amazing feeling for me.”
Mufaddal Choonia – CEO, Mahindra Racing
“It’s the Diwali weekend and I don’t think there can be a better Diwali gift for anyone in Mahindra today than a win here in Malaysia. It was such a difficult race due to the heat and humidity, and to keep pushing on in these conditions and win is absolutely monumental from Pecco. I am concerned however for the well-being of the riders who crashed in the race today, including Jorge Martin. I hope they are all fine. After we were robbed of a possible podium in Australia, we achieved an ideal result here. Pecco also moves to third in the championship, which is another fantastic result today.”
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