Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira made history yesterday by fighting back from a weak start to claim a first-ever top three podium finish for Mahindra’s MGP3O Moto3 racer.
The 18-year-old from Pragal qualified on the second row but bogged down off the line near the back of 32 riders into the first turn and finished the first lap in 14th place.
But he was already cutting his way through and by Lap 5 was with the leading group and still gaining places. On Lap 3, he set a new lap record, for the third time this year.
By the mid-point of the 18-lap, 99.864 km race at the Sepang circuit, Miguel was moving to fourth in a fearsome close group and then to third. But positions were changing from corner to corner as the top championship contenders fought tooth and nail.
There were still six in contention as they started a thrilling last lap. Oliveira fought to retain third place, the first rostrum for the MGP3O in its first season of racing. He was just 0.408 seconds behind winner Luis Salom (KTM). The first six crossed the line within just over one second.
The podium has been tantalising the team all season. Oliveira has qualified on pole in earlier races and has been fourth on three occasions.
Teammate Efren Vazquez made a flying start from eighth and was holding his own in the leading pack when he slipped off on a slow corner, remounting only to retire.
The result is an achievement and a valuable boost for Mahindra in the championship. Miguel has closed to within six points of a top five. Mahindra has also gained ground on second place in the constructors’ championship, just five points off second place.
The next race is the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island next Sunday. “After the start I made, I didn’t expect the podium. I knew I could do it but I had to recover a lot of time and take a lot of risks in the first lap. In the last laps it was really hard to control the bike.
I think Mahindra Racing and the team deserve this podium. With the end of the championship coming up the leading riders will feel the pressure, and we can try to take advantage of that,” said Oliveira.