Twin Ring Motegi, 16 October 2016: Team Aspar Mahindra rider Pecco Bagnaia claimed a fighting top-ten finish at today’s Japanese GP, coming through from 12th on the grid to tussle with the lead group, and cross the line in seventh, fending off his closest rival by one hundredth of a second.

The 19-year-old Italian was able to capitalise on a brilliant start and the sweet handling of his Mahindra MGP3O, finishing the first lap in third place, and soon moving to second.

The winner of the Dutch TT in June held his own in a typically close brawling leading pack, only losing touch as his tyres lost grip in the closing stages of the 20-lap race round the 4.801-km circuit in the Japanese countryside north-east of Tokyo.

His efforts far exceeded a difficult two days of practice and qualifying at a stop-start circuit that doesn’t play to the Mahindra’s strengths, when he moved up into 12th only in the final session.

Team-mate Jorge Martin, sixth last time out in Aragon, also defied the odds with a heroic effort after sustaining left leg injuries in a heavy crash in practice. Fighting the pain and weakness, he qualified 23rd fastest. He too made a great start and was running in the top ten in the early laps. But the 18-year-old was struggling with his injuries, and pulled in to retire with ten laps remaining.

Albert Arenas, riding a Peugeot-badged MGP3O, scored his first point of the season in 15th, making it double points for the only Indian constructor in the World Championship series.

Brno winner John McPhee was eliminated in a three-bike crash in the first corner. Independent Mahindra team rider Darryn Binder showed the MGP3O’s strength in depth, moving from 28th on the grid to a career-best eighth in the early laps, before slipping off to re-join out of the points.

The race was won by Honda’s Enea Bastianini, inches ahead of the already crowned 2016 champion Brad Binder.

Team Aspar Mahindra moves on to Australia for next weekend’s race at Phillip Island, the middle of three consecutive “flyaway” races before the season closes at Valencia in November.

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“It was a tough race, probably one of the most complicated I’ve done in my life. In the first lap I gave the maximum to avoid wasting time. We knew we were losing some time under acceleration so I quickly opened the gas, but soon the tyres started to lose performance. At the end I knew they would catch me, I tried to give my best to avoid it. Overall it has been a difficult weekend.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Seventh Place

“It hasn’t been a terribly bad weekend, but considering our wonderful season so far anything less than a podium is a little disappointing. Pecco again showed his masterful race-craft, up to second from 12th on the grid, but struggled a little with grip issues towards the end. It could have been better for us if McPhee and Binder hadn’t fallen; but it was good to see Arenas in the points. It shows our project is bearing fruit for all sorts of different riders. Martin was an absolute hero even to start, let alone getting up to tenth from so far back on the grid. We’re really happy to have a rider like this, and hope he can get fully fit with two races coming up at tracks that suit our bike better.”

Mufaddal Choonia, CEO, Mahindra Racing