The India connection between the world's top MotoGP riders
Bagnaia, Martin, Bezzecchi, Binder not just rode Mahindra bike in their initial days of GP motorcycle racing but also earned their very first podiums riding it
Francesco Bagnaia, Jorge Martin, Marco Bezzecchi, Brad Binder -- these four riders currently occupy the top four slots in the 2023 MotoGP World Championship standings.
They may come from different countries and race for different teams but there is a significant factor that links the top four riders – India, or to be precise, an Indian manufacturer.
All four not just rode a Mahindra bike in their initial days of Grand Prix motorcycle racing but also earned their very first podiums riding the Indian manufacturer’s vehicle.
“If you consider all the riders that moved from Mahindra, (they) have (all) done something incredible in the championship. All have won a title or have been runner-up. It's a really great school because the level of the bike was really great for handling but was missing engine power," said reigning world champion Bagnaia before he rode his Ducati for the first time on the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) ahead of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.
Mahindra debuted in Moto3 in 2011 as a team and manufacturer, supplying motorcycles to other teams too. While their team folded in 2014, they remained bike manufacturers from 2015 to 2017 until finally pulling out of the sport to solely focus on Formula E where they have a team too.
The Ducati rider, who is also leading the current championship, rode a Mahindra in 2015 and 2016, earning seven podiums including two wins. “But it puts you in a situation where you must do the maximum every time. I'm very happy and proud to have been part of the Mahindra family. I always say that it was the best Moto3 team I ever had to improve myself.”
The Mahindra Moto3 bikes were always behind in terms of power to rivals like Honda, KTM and Peugeot, they compensated by building bikes that were rider friendly and was known for handling.
Bagnaia’s main title rival Jorge Martin rode the Mahindra in 2015 and 2016, finishing second once in his second year with the team.
Italy’s Bezzecchi rode the Mahindra for two races each in 2015 and 2016 but did a complete season in 2017, earning one third place finish in Japan which was the last podium for Mahindra in Moto3.
"Without them and the (VR46) academy it probably would have been very difficult to step on the World Championship. They really invest in young riders and were really helping us. It was fantastic to be part of the Mahindra family. It was a big school, I learned a lot like to be more precise and more consistent,” said Bezzecchi, who has won twice this season, propelling him to third in the ongoing championship.
Binder, who holds the record for the fastest speed recorded in MotoGP at 366.1kmph, raced half a season in 2013 for Mahindra and did the full season next year, earning two podium finishes.
“Thinking back now, it was wild. We had a lot of good days. I rode it before these guys. It was ambitious, the thing's handling was incredible and when you're lacking power you need to try to figure out how to make it up elsewhere. For me it was one of the best steps in my career,” said the South African.
Moto3 and Moto2 are the main feeder series to the premier class MotoGP. While 250cc bikes are used in Moto3, it gets upgraded to 765cc in Moto2. MotoGP bikes are 1,000cc.