Mahindra prepares for "emotional" end to Moto3 chapter
Mahindra Racing’s seven-year stint in Moto3 championship will come to a conclusion this weekend in Valencia, Spain.
Mahindra entered the junior class of grand prix motorcycle racing in 2011, becoming the first Indian team to compete in the series.
Unsurprisingly, the Indian manufacturer faced a difficult start, with only a single points finish in its inaugural season. A shift to 250cc bikes in 2012 made things even more difficult.
However, success in Moto3 was only about time and from ‘13 onwards Mahindra began to show its true potential. The outfit’s breakthrough result came in Malaysia, where Miguel Oliveira piloted the MGP30 to a well-deserved podium finish.
It was a remarkable feat for Mahindra, who had already started receiving orders for its bikes by customer teams. And they had some solid reasons too. The Indian manufacturer’s performance was improving every year, despite stern opposition from established foreign rivals like KTM and Honda.
2014 only validated that opinion; three podium finishes and consistent points finishes meant Mahindra outscored both Husqvarna and Kalex.
Mahindra was destined for more success in 2015, but it took a surprise decision to focus on being a bike and engine manufacturer, scrapping its own team in the process. Mahindra argued that it wanted to focus on what it did the best, leaving the job of running the team to more experienced Europeans.
Because of this philosophy, it partnered with renowned Spanish squad Aspar, effectively turning it into its factory squad. Together they enjoyed a successful 2015 season, with several points finishes and a podium in France.
However, it wasn’t until 2016 the partnership really showed what it was capable of. Led by star rider and Valentino Rossi protegee Francesco Bagnaia, Mahindra took its rivals by storm.
The Indian manufacturer started the season with a podium finish in Qatar and it soon became clear that the revised MGP30 could give a real fight to rival bikes from KTM and Honda.
At the Dutch TT, Bagania claimed a historic first win for Mahindra, beating Honda’s Fabio di Giannantonio by just 0.039s.
A few races later, John McPhee led a one-two finish for Mahindra on a rebadged MGP30, while Bagnaia added another victory in Malaysia.
In all, Mahindra scored eight podiums that season, with Bagnaia finishing fourth in the riders’ standings.
Over the course of the winter, Mahindra’s rider line-up went through a comprehensive overall. Riders either graduated to Moto2 or left for other teams, effectively leaving Mahindra with an all rookie line-up for 2017.
The Indian manufacturer’s bike was also out-developed by both KTM and Honda, leaving them a distant third in the pecking order.
After a season in which it regularly scored podiums, Mahindra now found it hard to even finish inside the points.
However, the MGP30 was still quick in wet conditions and Marco Bezzecchi was able to take advantage of that characteristic in a damp Japan race to take third. It remains Mahindra’s only podium finish of the year.
The Indian manufacturer would be now hoping to bring an end to its Moto3 campaign on a positive note in Valencia, even though the weather is expected to be dry all weekend.
“We look forward to going to Valencia. It will be a very emotional race for us – the last race before we mark ourselves absent from next year,” Mahindra’s Moto3 boss Mufaddal Choonia said.
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