Mahindra back on the front row with Vazquez, Oliveira qualifies 8th after late crash
India’s only grand prix motorcycle will start tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix from the front row of the grid for the fifth time this season, after Spanish rider Efrén Vázquez powered the white-and-red MGP3O to third-fastest qualifying time at Phillip Island.
It was a personal best for the 27-year-old from Bilbao, one week after his Portuguese team-mate Miguel Oliveira scored a historic first top-three podium finish for the new-this-year Mahindra MGP3O Moto3™ racer.
Team celebration was less than it might have been, however. Oliveira (18) had led the early stages of qualifying, and at the end of the session was making his own challenge for the front row when he slipped off unhurt. Miguel has claimed Mahindra’s previous four front-row starts, including pole position at Assen in The Netherlands.
The pace of both riders – backed by strong performances by first Mahindra customer-bike rider Brad Binder in 15th – is a tribute to the continuous development work of the pioneering Indian team, and also to the speed and well-rounded character of the MGP3O. The 250cc four-stroke racer was designed and built in record time over the winter, and proved competitive from its very first race.
The Phillip Island circuit is one of the most demanding, comprising mainly fast corners along with major climbs and dips. The picturesque seaside location suffers from bad weather, but has been dry for the two days of practice, although high winds posed problems especially for the lightweight Moto3 machines. A complete resurfacing of the track has seen a dramatic drop in lap times, with this year’s pole time a full 1.44 seconds faster than last year, at 1’36.890 by Luis Salom (KTM).
Tomorrow’s race is the 15th of 17, and the middle of three consecutive ‘flyaway’ races before the European finale in November.
EFRÉN VÁZQUEZ – Third Position, 1’37.292 “My first front row this year is a little prize for me, but the race is tomorrow. However, it’s better to start from the front row, than the third or fourth. The team and I did a really good job through practice, always concentrating on the rhythm and staying calm. This is a really, really nice track, but sometimes the weather is not helpful. For the race there will be big groups as usual, with at least five fast ones. I need to stay strong for the first laps to be with them.”
MIGUEL OLIVEIRA – Eighth Position, 1’37.533 “It’s always difficult to do a fast lap here without a slipstream. On my last exit, everyone was waiting for a group to take that slipstream. I was in a group for two or three laps, then I was following Salom and I just put too much into the front brake and crashed. But I think we are in good shape for tomorrow, and I am ready to fight. I was second here last year, and it is one of my favourite circuits.”
MUFADDAL CHOONIA – CEO, Mahindra Racing “We’re delighted to have another front-row start – this time with Efrén. It clearly shows the progress and potential of the riders and the team, as well as the MGP3O machine. Miguel unfortunately had a small crash in the last few moments of the session or we might have had an even better result. Now we look forward to the race. It will certainly be another tough one.”
Source: Mahindra Racing