Efren Vazquez, Mufaddal Choonia and Miguel Oliveira
Over the last couple of years, Mahindra Racing has been making deep inroads into the world stage of competitive atmosphere. It was in the In 2011 that this group created history by making a bold entry into the FIM 125cc Motorcycle World Championship, part of the MotoGP series, the top-grade of two-wheeled motor sport in the world. Moreover, this feat of Mahindra Racing also marked the maiden entry by any Indian team and manufacturer to vie in international two-wheeled motor sport. The team bagged rich compliments and its riders regularly finished in the points during the last year of the two-stroke 125cc era.
Last year, the championship moved to the new Moto3 format – 250cc, single cylinder four-stroke machines. The switch turned out to be tricky for the relatively inexperience Mahindra team in the highest stage of 2-wheeler racing. Moreover, in that series ‘off the shelf’ motorcycles supplied by well-established racing manufacturers crowded the track. However, buoyed by the initial success, Mahindra Racing’s management comprehensively took stock of the overall situation and in August 2012 initiated a wholesome re-structuring of its team and technical partnerships for the 2013 season.
Steered by Swiss engineering firm Suter Technology AG, Mahindra Racing concentrated upon designing a new-age Moto3 challenger for this year’s race. At the final race of the 2012 Moto3 season the team inducted two new riders, talented Portuguese teenager Miguel Oliveira and experienced Spaniard Efrén Vázquez. With a number of new personnel appointments following, the new-look team moved to a base in Switzerland.
By February this year, the all new MGP-3O witnessed full flow of the proceedings in the pre-season group tests at Valencia. This was followed by two tests at Jerez. In all three, the MGP-3O proved its mettle and successfully travelled through many trouble-free kilometres on the track as the riders and team joined hands on preparing the machines for the season ahead. In 2013, Mahindra Racing will enter the Moto3 class in CIV.
In the backdrop of Mahindra Racing's start in this season on positive mood, Mufaddal Choonia, CEO of Mahindra Racing, shared his views on the future road ahead.
Miguel Oliveira and Efren Vazquez
Q. Have you had a busy winter?
We have had an extremely busy winter re-structuring our entire operation while also developing the new bike. I have to give credit to everyone involved who has helped make the changes happen. Mahindra engineers have worked closely with their counterparts at Suter Racing and the result, in such a short amount of time, has been encouraging. Meanwhile, we have also moved our operating base to Switzerland.
Q. Are you pleased with how things have gone?
So far so good! The effort has been enormous and it has been satisfying to watch the professionalism of our riders and team members during the three pre-season tests. Equally satisfying has been the performance of the all new MGP-3O. We have managed to do a lot of laps with no real problems and this gives us great hope for the long season ahead. I know that testing was only a small step in the right direction and we do not want to get ahead of ourselves, but we have also been happy with the times Miguel and Efrén have achieved after such a short development time in the factory.
Q. How are your new riders?
I am extremely pleased with both riders. We chose them because they have great pedigree and are known as front runners. They also provide a great balance of speed and experience. I have been impressed with the professionalism and work ethic of both riders and, on a human level, they fit in well with the team and are both great guys. The fact that both of them speak far better English than I speak Spanish or Portuguese is also extremely helpful!
Q. How much of the new bike is ‘Mahindra?’
The all new MGP-3O is very much a Mahindra bike. Of course, we have benefited enormously from the experience and expertise of Suter Racing Technology, our technological partner in the project. We certainly could not have proceeded from concept to track within such a short amount of time without the input of Eskil’s team. However, we have had Mahindra engineers involved in the project at every stage; in fact the entire project management has been done by Mahindra engineers. We have also carried out a lot of the design analysis (including FMEA) at our R&D centres in India. So yes, a lot of Mahindra expertise has gone into the design of the new bike.
Q. Mahindra Racing has a new logo this year, can you explain the change?
It is fitting that the change in the Mahindra corporate identity gives us the opportunity to update the Mahindra Racing logo at a time when we have made significant changes to the team. I think this clean, modern Mahindra logo works very well for us. It reflects the evolving nature of our organisation, our global outlook and progressive management style. In short, it reflects the ‘core’ of Mahindra.
Q. What are your objectives for the season?
We are splitting our season into stages, which reflect the development planned for the bike during the season. For each stage we have objectives to improve our performance. However, I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion on specifics at this stage. Both our riders seem to be happy with the bike and are very enthusiastic about the season ahead, but I shall wait and see how we perform in the opening three races before making any predictions. Clearly, Mahindra is not involved in MotoGP to make up the numbers and we are keen to be challenging the front runners during the course of this season.
Q. How is Mahindra’s racing programme being received in India?
The reception to our MotoGP programme in India has been fantastic and honestly speaking, that has surprised even me. We are the largest online motor sports community from India with more than 671,000 fans on Facebook. And many of these are not just fans making up the numbers. They are fans who regularly interact with the brand, monitor the progress of the team, ask questions and give us their feedback and suggestions. This is very encouraging for us as a team.
Q. Has Mahindra’s racing programme expanded in 2013?
In addition to our Moto3 racing activities in 2013, Mahindra Racing will again be competing in the CIV Italian Championship, also in the Moto3 class. Last year we succeeded in winning the Constructors’ Championship in the CIV 125cc class. This year our satellite team will feature two exciting new riders, Andrea Locatelli, who is 16, and Michael Rinaldi (17). The CIV programme is an interesting way to develop new talent, and provides valuable data to develop our bike over the course of the season. We are hoping for another successful season in the CIV.
Q. What is Mahindra’s long-term plan?
As many people will remember, Mr Anand Mahindra, the Chairman of the Mahindra Group, made a commitment that Mahindra is in motor sport for the long term and we will stick by that commitment. However, we need to take it one step at a time and so I am solely focused on delivering dramatically improved performance for the team in the 2013 Moto3 season. If we achieve that step then we shall redefine our plans and objectives for the future. The Moto3 class remains our focus.
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