Moto3: Mahindra's lightweight campaign ends outside points in Valencia GP
Mahindra Racing's campaign in the Moto3 world championship ended in Valencia, where even though it couldn't score points, but they bowed out with their heads held high. The Indian manufacturer had joined the 125cc category in 2011, before it moved to the Moto3 championship following the regulation changes in 2012.
In the seven years, they entered in 123 races, claiming a historic feat of three wins, together with 14 podiums and three pole positions with multiple customer teams. The season-finale at Valencia saw Peugeot's Jakub Kornfeil finish as the best rider in 18th position.
The Czech rider pretty much had a lonely race after gaining few positions at the start, but he just didn't have the pace to attack for the points positions. "This time I came off the line very well. I tried to use the riders in front of me as a slipstream on the straight and I found a good line in the first corner," he said.
"I already gained a few positions so this worked out well. After this I was going behind Oettl and I was trying to stay behind him and follow him and Migno. When they started their attack I lost the contact more and more in every corner and then I was alone for the rest of the race. After that I just tried to make my race and make constant lap times to stay in front of the group that was chasing me."
Towards the end, Kornfeil came under pressure from Jules Danilo, who finished a mere 0.679s off the Czech rider. Danilo himself had Aspar's Lorenzo dalla Porta on his rear, with the Italian leading three other riders.
Among the three were CIP's Manuel Pagliani in 22nd, who led Aspar's returning rider Albert Arenas - the duo separated by a mere 0.555s over the finish line. Dalla Porta rued the bad start he got, from which he could never recover in the 24 laps of racing.
"That was a tough race, made harder by a bad start. I wasn't far from the group but on the first two laps a gap opened up that I wasn't able to close. We finish the season with a twentieth position and I feel bad because I think the team and myself deserve better," he said.
Meanwhile, Arenas also lost out at the start when he took a cautious approach due to pain in his injured hands. "To finish the race with a strong pace was a success for us. Yesterday in qualifying I felt okay for a few laps. I was happy to be back on a bike but today was a case of pushing as hard as I could over the opening laps to be as close to the front as possible when the pain in my hand kicked in.
"Over the first three laps I struggled to keep pace, especially under braking, but then I forgot about my hand until near the finish. We have fought this season to be the top Mahindra in the championship, it is just a shame that I have had to miss a few races through injury."
Even though no points were scored, Mahindra saw all its bikes seeing the chequered flag despite dramas for CIP's Marco Bezzecchi and Peugeot's Patrik Pulkkinen - the former endured a fall to be 28th, while the latter had gear shifting issues to end up a lap down in 29th.
Up front, it was a maiden win for the former Mahindra rider Jorge Martin in the Gresini, with 2017 champion Joan Mir fighting his way up to second, while another former Mahindra rider Marcos Ramirez claimed his first podium finish.
At the end of a difficult year, Mahindra were third with 43 points, while Peugeot were fourth with 26. In the riders' list, Kornfeil ended in the lead finishing in 22nd position with 26 points, just ahead of Bezzecchi with 20 to his name.
Arenas ended up 26th with 14 points, while dalla Porta was 28th with nine and Pagliani 29th with eight points - wildcard rider Alex Fabbri was 33rd with three points in his lone outing in San Marino. Only Pulkkinen was the other rider, who did the full season, but didn't manage to score any points.