John McPhee claims first points of the season in Qatar

PETRONAS Sprinta Racing rider finishes 13th in opening race of 2019; Ayumu Sasaki out before the end of the first lap after contact from another ride.

The PETRONAS Sprinta Racing team picked up the first points of the season in the opening round of the Moto3 World Championship thanks to John McPhee, who finished thirteenth in a hotly contested race at the Losail International Circuit. The downside for the team was an unfortunate incident for Ayumu Sasaki, who was forced out of the race on the opening lap after being hit by another rider.

McPhee had to recover from a difficult start to the race, when he went backwards from fourth place and found himself outside the point-scoring positions. However, the PETRONAS Sprinta Racing rider made gradual progress with every lap, recovering as high as eighth place before eventually taking 13th in a close battle to the line.

Ayumu Sasaki found himself involved in a multi-rider incident in turn 6 on the first lap. The Japanese rider, who started from 22nd on the grid, was hit by a rival and was unable to continue after crashing.

With this result, McPhee picks up three points and is 13th in the Championship as the series moves on to Argentina, where Sasaki will aim to open his account for the season on 31st March.

RESULTS

1. KAITO TOBA / Honda 38’08.887
2. LORENZO DALLA PORTA / Honda +0.053
3. ARON CANET / KTM +0.174
4. MARCOS RAMIREZ / Honda +0.505
5. CELESTINO VIETTI / KTM +0.584
13. JOHN MCPHEE / PETRONAS Sprinta Racing +1.849
DNF. AYUMU SASAKI / PETRONAS Sprinta Racing DNF

Johan Stigefelt – Team Director 

“After a great qualifying yesterday, John McPhee rode really well again today but we had a little problem with the top speed of the bike, which we detected in warm-up, and he couldn’t overtake anybody on the straights. I followed his performance throughout the race and he did a really good job. His start could have been better but then he caught with the lead group and was able to run with them. It was a shame about the issue because he couldn’t make any more progress through the group.

Sasaki’s crash was not his fault so it was a real shame for his race to finish like that in the sixth corner of the first lap. It has been a difficult weekend for him but we will work hard again at the next Grand Prix.”

#71 Ayumu Sasaki 

“It has been a difficult weekend for me, starting with qualifying in 22nd. We tried some different things in the warm-up that didn’t work, so we decided to try again with a different setting for the race. It felt good on the warm-up lap so I was excited to see how it might work in the race. I got a good start but in turn 6 somebody hit the rear of my bike and I went down. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a great start to the season but I have learned a lot, especially with the new qualifying system, so we will work on those things in the coming races and try to be at the front.”

#17 John McPhee

“It is nice to be back racing again, having a scrap and doing what we love. My bike felt great in the race, the team have done a great job on finding my race pace and I knew it was going to be good. Unfortunately, we had a small technical problem with the top speed, which cost us particularly on the straight, but the bike was good around the rest of the track. I made a couple of mistakes on the first lap, ran wide in one corner, and when you do that at the beginning it costs you for the whole race. After that I focused on setting my pace, which was good, and tried to catch the lead group, which I managed even though I was stuck at the back. The good thing about the weekend is I felt strong, my pace and feeling were good and the speed is there. We have limited the damage by picking up some points and now we can turn our focus to the next GP in Argentina.”