Motegi Moto3: Mahindra scores first podium of 2017
Mahindra scored their first podium of the 2017 Moto3 season at Japan’s Motegi Circuit, with customer CIP squad’s Marco Bezzecchi finishing third in a shortened and wet race.
The entire weekend was affected by rain showers, with all sessions taking place on a damp circuit. This played into the hands of Mahindra, whose MGP30 is known to be quick in wet weather.
Bezzecchi, arguably the best rookie in Mahindra’s line-up, qualified fourth on the grid with a lap of 2m09.708s, only half a second off polesitter Nicola Bulega’s benchmark.
An oil spill caused the race to be delayed by more than an hour and was reduced from 23 to 13 laps.
When the things finally got underway, Bezzecchi initially lost a position to Honda’s Enea Bastianini, before immediately passing him to move back up to fourth.
On lap 6, the Italian passed Tatsuki Suzuki to move himself into podium contention. In the second half of the race, the 18-year-old attempted to close in on second-placed Niccolo Antonelli, but simply ran out of laps before he could overtake his countryman.
Nevertheless, third position was a fantastic result for Bezzecchi, with his previous best being a lowly 14th. The result also catapulted him to the top of the rookie standings.
“The conditions were almost impossible,” he said. “At the end, the rain was very strong and I was trying to stay focused so as to not make any mistakes.
“Thanks to everybody, to the team, Mahindra, VR46 guys, my family and friends. I’m sorry, I’m lost for words - it is a dream come true.”
For Mahindra, too, it was a moment of joy as they broke their podium drought dating back to last year’s Malaysian GP.
“To us, this podium means almost as much as our first race victory," Mahindra’s Moto3 boss Mufaddal Choonia said. “It’s been a tough season, but the positive is that it is ending well, with our best results as we come to the end of our association with Moto3.
“This is a very emotional time. Thanks and congratulations to Marco, the CIP team and all the Mahindra Racing staff, for giving us this wonderful moment.”
Peugeot’s Jakub Kornfeil brought more delight for the Indian manufacturer with a charging ride from 20th to eighth.
While CIP and sister brand Peugeot enjoyed season’s most successful outing, the factory-supported Aspar team had to endure a double blow in Japan.
Albert Arenas failed to start the race after sustaining a fracture in qualifying, while Lorenzo Dalla Porta retired on the opening lap.
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