Mahin­dra shows its met­tle

Eigh­teen-year-old ‘Pecco’ Bag­naia comes within half a sec­ond of In­dian maker’s first Moto3 win

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - — Sup­plied.

MAPFRE Team Mahin­dra rider Francesco “Pecco” Bag­naia claimed a fine, fight­ing third place in a thrilling French Grand Prix — tak­ing a lead­ing role in a fear­some front pack, and miss­ing his and the only In­dian marque’s first Moto3 victory by less than half a sec­ond.

The 18-year-old Ital­ian had qual­i­fied on the front row for the first time, and he didn’t put a wheel wrong through­out a pun­ish­ingly com­pet­i­tive 24 laps of the 4,185 km Bu­gatti cir­cuit at the leg­endary French mo­tor-rac­ing venue.

Pecco started strongly, bat­tled for the lead in the early laps, then played it cool in an eight-bike brawl, sav­ing his strength for the closing battle. The new 2015 Mahin­dra MGP3O again showed its strength at the high­est level, with Bag­naia par­tic­u­larly strong at the cru­cial cor­ner-en­try over­tak­ing points.With four laps re­main­ing, the Ital­ian at­tacked again. He moved up to sec­ond, then took the lead as they started the last lap.

Now it was a four-way scrap, won by inches by Ro­mano Fe­nati (KTM) and Enea Bas­tian­ini (Honda). Cham­pi­onship leader Danny Kent (Honda) was fourth.

Bag­naia proved that Mahin­dra’s luck seems to have turned and the hard work paid off. Two more MGP3O rid­ers fin­ished in the points. Sec­ond Mapfre Team Mahin­dra rider Juan­fran Gue­vara was a brave 12th, less than a fort­night af­ter surgery for a bro­ken col­lar­bone; rookie Ste­fano Manzi claimed his first point at 15th. The next race is the Ital­ian GP at Mugello, in two weeks.

In­ter­viewed af­ter the race third-placed Bag­naia said: “This was for sure the best race of my ca­reer. I fought a lot with the other two Ital­ian rid­ers, and that was great. In the re­main­ing two laps, I tried to take first po­si­tion, and I could make it. But it was so dif­fi­cult, a real fight. I gave my best, and this third place is the re­sult. I’m very happy, be­cause the team and Mahin­dra have been work­ing a lot. This is a good re­ward. Now we have to con­tinue.”

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

Mapfre Team Mahin­dra rider Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bag­naia cel­e­brates his third place in the French Moto3 Grand Prix at the week­end.

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