Comunitat Valenciana, 13 Novemeber 2016: Aspar Mahindra Team rider Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia was robbed of a clear third in the world championship in today’s Valencia GP, when for a second time in three races he was sent flying as innocent victim of a mistake by the same rival rider.

Fresh from his second win of the season at the last round in Malaysia, the Italian teenager had made a strong start with the lead group. But on only the first of 24 laps of the tortuous 4.005-km Ricardo Tormo circuit outside Valencia, rival Gabriel Rodrigo lost control at Turn 13, and crashed right under Bagnaia’s front wheel.

There was no way of avoiding him, and while Bagnaia was lucky to escape injury, he was bitterly disappointed. Although he had qualified 16th, he was only four tenths off the pole time on a very close grid, and had made a strong start, well in touch with a lead group that was still close together at the finish.

The same rider had knocked Bagnaia out of a strong front-running position in the Australian GP two races ago; although the Mahindra rider bounced back to victory one week later at Sepang.

Bagnaia’s win had lifted him to third overall, with a chance of moving to second in today’s race. Instead, out of the race with zero points, he dropped to fourth. In spite of the disappointment, it was still the best ever championship result for Mahindra, at the end of the marque’s best-ever season.

Team-mate Jorge Martin finished tenth in today’s race, after fighting his way back to the front of a four-strong battle in the closing stages.

The Valencia GP closed off the best season so far for the only Indian constructor in world championship racing. Bagnaia took Mahindra’s MGP3O to first at Assen in the Netherlands and Sepang in Malaysia; while another wearing the badge of sister-brand Peugeot took John McPhee to his first win in the Czech Republic GP. Bagnaia added four more podium finishes to his wins, and has included a pole position among three front-row starts. His less experienced team-mate Martin has been four times in the top six, with a best of second.

The Valencia race was the 18th and last of the 2016 season.

“I’m okay but I’m not so happy. I was happy if I could finish the year in the top three but today it wasn’t possible. I would have been happy to finish in the top three but today we couldn’t. I have to say thank you to Aspar and Mahindra for the year.”

Francesco Bagnaia – DNF

“It was a hard race. I started really well and I pushed very hard to stay with the front group but they were maybe two or three tenths faster than me. I just couldn’t go with them at the start. Then I picked up the pace but I was in a group with a lot of fighting and this was disturbing me. Finally I made two great laps at the end to get tenth position. It’s not the result I expected today but it has been a great two years with Mahindra and with Aspar. Now we look towards the future.”

Jorge Martin – Tenth Place

“Again, we rue our bad luck. Today we had very realistic hopes of finishing third in the championship. It didn’t happen, but fourth is the highest a Mahindra rider has ever finished, illustrating the fabulous season we’ve had in 2016. It shows the big leaps our development team has taken, producing a bike that was fighting for victory in so many races this year. We bid a tear-filled goodbye to Pecco, to Martin and to many other riders not with us next year, to say thank you, and wish them the best for their future.”

Mufaddal Choonia – CEO, Mahindra Racing