Moto3: Marco Bezzecchi delivers Mahindra's season's first podium at Motegi
Mahindra enjoyed the Moto3 Japanese Grand Prix weekend with its maiden podium of the 2017 season courtesy CIP's Marco Bezzecchi.
The VR46 academy rider had shown plenty of promise throughout the season. He qualified fourth on a damp Twin Ring Motegi circuit on Saturday.
In the race, the Italian had an initial battle with Estrella Galicia's Enea Bastianini, before it got into a tussle with his teammate Aron Canet and SIC58's Tatsuki Suzuki.
He cleared Canet on Lap 5 to get himself into the podium contention, with the Spaniard also losing out to former Mahindra rider Suzuki in the process.
It was then for Bezzecchi to keep its position, defending from Suzuki in the wet conditions - which favoured the Mahindra MGP3O bike.
He eventually finished comfortably in third, while having gotten quite close to second placed Red Bull KTM Ajo's Niccolo Antonelli in the later half of the race.
This was Bezzecchi's first podium of his Moto3 career, which pushed him to 22nd in the riders' standings with 20 points, behind Peugeot's Jakub Kornfeil on 22.
The Czech rider, meanwhile, scored his second-best result of the season in eighth, making a gradual progress after powering through to be 14th at the end of Lap 1 from 19th on the grid.
"I am really happy with my 8th position today. Even happier then I was in Misano when I finished 7th. You know, this weekend we were struggling a lot with the set up because my feeling with the bike was not good," said Kornfeil.
"Finishing inside the top 10 after such hard days is a great feeling for sure. The conditions out there were really tricky and I had to fight a lot to get these points but it was worth it.
"So far our season was a hard one so I am actually happy about the fact that we could show our potential in the last part of the year now."
The only other rider to finish the grand prix was Kornfeil's teammate Patrik Pulkkinen in 22nd, after CIP's Manuel Pagliani suffered a fall in the second lap itself.
Meanwhile, to add further to Aspar's misery after losing Albert Arenas to a fracture on Saturday in qualifying, teammate Lorenzo dalla Porta's engine blew-up on the first lap itself.
"We're ending a weekend that has been rather difficult, right from from the start. I never had a good enough feeling to go fast in the wet here at Motegi, and in the race –although we started from far back- we got off the line well," said the Italian.
"However, there was a moment on the opening lap in which I opened the throttle and felt the engine go. I was close to the entrance to the pits and I retired from the race. It's been a difficult week, and the end was tough."
Despite the mixed results at Motegi, Mahindra's CEO Mufaddal Choonia felt emotional with the podium in its last year in the championship - which so far has been a struggling one, with the best result of eighth in San Marino prior to Japan (outside Peugeot's seventh in the same event).