Mahindra team set for Le Mans race

Mumbai, May 15 (IANS) India’s only motorcycle Grand Prix team resumes battle in France this weekend with high hopes of more strong results after a top-10 start for the all-new Mahindra GP machine.

On track barely six months after the project was initiated, the 250cc Moto3 Mahindra MGP3O has been fast, reliable and successful from its debut in Qatar with a best-ever double top-10 finish at the first attempt.

Seventh-placed Miguel Oliveira moved up to fifth at the next round and the Portuguese teenager was fighting for fourth in Round 3 at Jerez when another rider tipped him off.

Spanish teammate Efrén Vázquez, 26, made up for it with eighth, his second top-10 of the year. Oliveira is seventh and Vázquez 10th overall in the championship standings with Mahindra currently lying third in the Constructors’ points.

Round 4 is at the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans that is 4.185 km long and shares the pits and a section of track with the famous 24-hour car endurance circuit. With no long straights and a variety of fast and slow corners, plus the ever-present chance of rain, the French circuit favours riding skill and excellent cornering and braking, all areas that should also favour the new Mahindra.

Last year, Vázquez and Oliveira were on the front row together, qualified second and third, but atrocious conditions took their toll. Vázquez went out on the warm-up lap, and Oliveira was in a substantial lead at two-thirds distance when he slipped off.

Oliveira said: “I’m definitely looking forward to this race. I like the track. Last year I was leading until I fell on lap 16. The conditions were crazy wet, with so many accidents. This year, the Mahindra bike is getting better and we understand more about how to find the best setting. It’s more a track for riding than just horsepower and we have the chance of a strong result.”

Assessing his chances, Vazquez said: “I like Le Mans but I had bad luck there last year. I almost made pole position but then I missed the race. Wet or dry, I will be giving my 100 percent. At Jerez testing, we finally found a good setting for the corners so I could fight with the KTMs and we have improved it even more at tests. These top-10 results are important for Mahindra and I want to move further towards the front.”

Directly after the race at Jerez, the team went testing at the Almeria circuit in Spain as the riders and technicians are still learning the finer details of the new motorcycle.

Two clear days allowed them to gather data and incorporate further setting refinements to the fully adjustable chassis. They were able to test engine development parts to be introduced in the coming races.

Both aspects were positive, said Mahindra Racing’s CEO Mufaddal Choonia with steps made in chassis set-up and improvement of the overall understanding of this very new project.

“The engine test was encouraging. The riders felt a definite improvement, especially at the top end where we are currently suffering a little against the opposition. Now we are currently running durability tests before bringing the new parts to the track,” said Choonia.

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