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Ahead of the first Moto3 race of 2015 at Losail, Mahindra Racing’s CEO Mufaddal Choonia answers some key questions.
What are the main changes made to the MGP3O racer since last year?
“We have worked on almost all the major aggregates including the engine and chassis. The new chassis has higher rigidity and lower weight compared to the previous one. We have done a lot of work on the engine, some of which was driven by changes in the regulation. We have also been working on certain areas where we felt we were not strong enough. Another aspect we have focused on is the aerodynamic package. Overall it is a significantly improved bike from last year.”
How different is the bike since its debut in 2013?
“It is a completely different bike. When you consider the amount of development work we have done on the bike and its components - there will only be a handful of components that have been carried over from the 2013 season.”
The bike was developed with a technical partner, but is Mahindra Racing now responsible for the 2015 machine?
“Yes completely. At the beginning of the project our partner played a significant role. Since the beginning of the 2014 season Mahindra Racing has taken complete charge of development changes. The bike you see now is a true Mahindra product. We have been able to do this by establishing our European research and development facility in Italy, which will also develop future Mahindra racing bikes. In the past we have had strategic partnerships with a few vendors for the technical development of our racing bikes. In that case the partners took a lead and Mahindra Racing played an important supporting role. Since the 2014 season the roles have been consciously reversed with Mahindra Racing playing the lead role and its partners, that of a supporting one. This was important from our perspective since we wanted to develop our own technological know-how and expertise so that it could, in future, be used for both Mahindra Racing’s growth and at some stage soon, be useful to Mahindra Two Wheelers in the development of its high-performance motorcycles.”
Tell us about the type of design and development work that will be done at the new R&D facility?
“Everything that is required for the development of a racing motorcycle will be done at this new facility. We have design engineers who are involved in the core design of the engine, chassis and other critical components of the bike like the electrical and electronic components. We also have a development and testing team which tests the prototypes of bikes both in the labs, on the engine / rolling dynos, as well as on the track. This team provides track and lab data to the design team to incorporate improvements that are required in the design either from a performance or reliability perspective. We also have a small prototype shop where we can manufacture some small parts, if required.”
With the move to constructor status from 2015 how will this facility help in supporting customers?
“As a full-scale constructor, we now commercially supply our bikes to other private racing teams. At our development centre in Italy, we have a team of engineers who handle vendor development, quality control and sourcing of parts, just like we do for regular production vehicles. We also have a track support team that is similar to a ’customer care’ team, which works with the customer’s engineers during the race weekends. Our team provides them with relevant data and expertise required, to help them set up their Mahindra MGP3O racing bikes to ensure optimal performance during the race weekends. We also provide spare parts support on track in case customers run out of stock due to any reason. This ensures the Mahindra MGP3O is always ready for ’track duty’. Our development centre thus provides us with a base for all these activities and helps us give greater value to our customers.”
As a constructor with no team, what presence will Mahindra have at each race?
“Team Aspar, which will be known as Mapre Team Mahindra, is now our factory team and they will represent Mahindra at the races. We will have a team of Mahindra factory engineers present at all the races who will support Team Aspar and our other customer teams. This will include bike set up, spare parts support and track-side assistance.”
The Mahindra Racing team bikes have all featured the Indian flag. Now there is no Mahindra Team how are you representing India in the Moto3 Championship?
“You can’t separate Mahindra from India so by continuing our participation in Moto3 we continue to represent India. The nine Mahindra MG3POs on the Moto3 grid are also representing India because they are Indian bikes. More importantly we feel that now, with our focus on being a constructor of racing machines, we are in a better position to form an alliance with our teams who are Spanish, French, and Italian.”
How has pre-season testing been going?
“On the whole we have been very pleased with testing right from the start, after the final Grand Prix in Valencia last year, we could see that we had moved in the right direction with our 2015 bike and that was reinforced by our teams and riders. Sadly the final test at Jerez was a bit of a washout and so we don’t have a full reflection of our potential, but I would say we are quietly confident that we have a competitive bike.”
What are your expectations for the 2015 season?
“We certainly want to improve from where we left off last season because this is what we have been doing year on year - improving. We have a young set of riders on our bikes this year so I think the focus will be for them to establish themselves and build up consistent results. Who knows- towards the latter part of the year we might just have some surprises in terms of strong results.”
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