Back in 2011, Indian manufacturer Mahindra entered the lowest tier of MotoGP and made history. The Indian manufacturer had a difficult start, with only a single points finish in its inaugural season. A shift to 250cc bikes in 2012 made things even more difficult. From 2013 onwards, Mahindra Racing began to show its true potential. The outfit’s breakthrough result came in Malaysia, where Miguel Oliveira piloted the MGP30 to a well-deserved podium finish.
That maiden podium meant that customer teams began to order Mahindra to supply them with bikes. The Indian manufacturer’s performance was improving every year, despite stern opposition from established foreign rivals like KTM and Honda. In 2014, three podium finishes and consistent points finishes meant Mahindra outscored both Husqvarna and Kalex.
In 2015, they took a surprise decision to focus on being a bike and engine manufacturer, scrapping its own team in the process. Mahindra Racing argued that it wanted to focus on what it did the best, leaving the job of running the team to more experienced Europeans.
It partnered with renowned Spanish squad Aspar, effectively turning it into its factory squad. Together they enjoyed a successful 2015 season, with several points finishes and a podium in France.
However, it wasn’t until 2016 that the partnership really showed what it was capable of. Led by star rider and Valentino Rossi protege Francesco Bagnaia, Mahindra took its rivals by storm. The Indian manufacturer started the season with a podium finish in Qatar. Soon it became clear that the revised MGP30 could give a real fight to rival bikes from KTM and Honda.
One place where the Mahindra lacked compared to its rivals was its top speed. In races like Barcelona or Mugello, the MGP30 was a sitting duck on the straights but usually made it up in the corner speed.
At the Dutch TT, Bagnaia claimed a historic first win for Mahindra, beating Honda’s Fabio di Giannantonio by just 0.039s. A few races later, John McPhee led a one-two finish for Mahindra on a rebadged MGP30, while Bagnaia added another victory in Malaysia. In all, Mahindra scored eight podiums that season, with Bagnaia finishing fourth in the riders’ standings.
Over the course of the winter, Mahindra’s rider line-up went through a comprehensive overall. Riders either graduated to Moto2 or left for other teams, effectively leaving Mahindra with an all rookie line-up for 2017. The Indian manufacturer’s bike was also out-developed by both KTM and Honda, leaving them a distant third in the pecking order. After a season in which it regularly scored podiums, Mahindra now found it hard to even finish inside the points.
However, the MGP30 was still quick in wet conditions and Marco Bezzecchi was able to take advantage of that characteristic in a damp Japanese GP to take third. It remains Mahindra’s only podium finish of the year. The Indian manufacturer would be now hoping to bring an end to its Moto3 campaign on a positive note in Valencia, even though the weather is expected to be dry all weekend.
Mahindra’s Moto3 boss Mufaddal Choonia said “We look forward to going to Valencia. It will be a very emotional race for us – the last race before we mark ourselves absent from next year”.