Losail, Qatar, 26 March 2017: Mahindra Racing’s hopes of scoring points in the first GP of 2017 were dashed under the Qatari floodlights, when big-hearted class rookie Marco Bezzecchi crashed out after fighting his way to the front of a fierce group. He had started the last of 18 laps in 12th place, leading the second group.

The 18-year-old Italian rookie, riding for the French CIP team in his first GP as a full-time rider, had overcome some fast company in the tight chasing pack, which was circulating at the same pace as the leaders. He had been the best-placed of the six Mahindra-mounted riders, dropping to the back after a fall. Bezzecchi would remount to finish 25th.

Back in action after the sole Indian constructor’s best season in 2016, other Mahindra Racing riders suffered various difficulties. This was largely due to poor starting positions, after all qualifying sessions had been cancelled due to rain and circuit flooding on Saturday. As a result, grid positions were taken from Free Practice times, denying riders the chance to concentrate on fast lap times rather than machine set-up.

The best finisher on an MGP3O was Jakub Kornfeil, who crossed the line in 20th on the SaxoPrint Peugeot, wearing the badge of Mahindra’s sister-company.

New-for-2017 Aspar Mahindra Team rider Lorenzo Dalla Porta finished 23rd, one place behind second CIP Mahindra rider Manuel Pagliani. The second Aspar Mahindra rider, Albert Arenas, crashed out unhurt on the fifth lap after joining the battle for points and setting his personal best lap of the race.

There was encouragement for the team in spite of the disappointing results. The Mahindra MGP3O has been completely revised, and has proved both fast and reliable in preseason tests and at the first GP, showing the core strength of the package.

“It was great to be fighting with Bulega and Bastianini. I was able to stay with them through all the corners. If I am with the group, I can stay and fight with them – no matter who. A shame to crash, I was first in the group and I went for the inside. At this track the kerb is a little bit down, I touched it and went off. It’s a disappointment to fall, but I know I can now fight with these guys. I just need to qualify better.”

Marco Bezzecchi, CIP – 25th

“We know where we need to work, and we need to work fast. At least the bike has shown that it is strong, as Marco proved. He was in a group with a similar pace to the leaders, but they got split due to bad grid positions. The bike is promising – a clear step forward from last year. I hope that we can now help the riders to make the most of it.”

Mufaddal Choonia, Mahindra Racing CEO