Losail International Circuit, Doha: Aspar Mahindra rider Pecco Bagnaia toughed it out for a brilliant third place under the floodlights in the opening round of the 2016 Moto3 World Championship in Qatar yesterday.
The 19-year-old Italian fought every inch of the way in an eight-strong pack of the world’s best riders, using the MGP3O’s superb handling and his own intelligent tactics to be with the leaders as the chequered flag fell.
The new white-liveried Mahindra racer was just 0.148 of a second adrift of winner Niccolo Antonelli’s Honda, with Brad Binder’s KTM sandwiched between them.
Bagnaia had started the Qatar Grand Prix – the first of 18 rounds – from the fourth row of the grid, and finished the first of 18 laps of the 5.38-km Losail circuit in seventh position. From there to the end it was an action-packed 38 minutes, with eight riders exchanging blows at every corner, and swerving in and out of one another’s slipstreams down the kilometre-long start-finish straight.
Bagnaia held his own throughout, sometimes losing ground on the straight but then taking it back with interest in the corners. At the finish, the first seven riders were still within three quarters of a second of the leader.
It was a superb debut for the all-new Mahindra Moto3 machine, completely redesigned during the winter break; and justification also for a tactical change of bodywork during the weekend, after it was found that a different version of the fairing gave better results at the desert circuit.
With the agreement of its customer teams, the only Indian constructor in international racing made the one bodywork change allowed for the season even before the first race. The podium finish was the pay-off; in future races all eight Mahindra riders will have the choice of two different versions of the fairing.
FRANCESCO “PECCO” BAGNAIA – Third Place
This was a really, really difficult race. I had to push to the maximum on every single lap, and the pace was very strong. After practice and qualifying I didn’t think it would be possible to stay with the front group – but with the slipstream in the race, I realised I could do it. It was an amazing result for us. Mahindra and the Aspar team have worked really hard. The different fairing was definitely a help: it was easier to take the slipstream, and to close the line on the corners.
MUFADDAL CHOONIA – CEO Mahindra Racing
A podium is a fantastic way to start the new season after all the hard work from Mahindra Racing and our teams over the winter. Pecco rode magnificently to show the potential of the new MGP3O. Congratulations and thanks to him. He was the only rider who used the new aerodynamic package that we chose to homologate here. It improved stability and cornering speed, and the result certainly showed. Now we will work toward ensuring all the Mahindra and Peugeot Motocycles riders have the same opportunity: we’re committed to providing all of them with the new fairing from the next race in Argentina.”
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