Indian motorsport outfit Mahindra Racing announced that 2017 will be its last season in motorcycle grand prix racing. The team said that the separation from Moto3 is a result of a strategic shift in its focus towards electric racing. Mahindra recently secured its first ever win in Formula E, performing much better than its current status in Moto3. The team joined the 125 cc MotoGP class in 2011, while its breakthrough season was 2016 with three wins to its credit. However, the 2017 season has seen its three outfits failing to make a mark with no points in four out of seven races.
Speaking about the exit, Mahindra Group's President of Group Communications and Ethics, and CEO - Ruzbeh Irani said, "Our strategic review of Mahindra Racing and Mahindra's two-wheeler businesses led us to the decision to withdraw from MotoGP. It has been a tremendous journey, and we would like to thank all of our staff, partners and collaborators who have contributed to our success during our seven years in the sport."
Adding further, he said, "Formula E is providing us with an excellent international platform to raise awareness of the Mahindra Group, our technological capabilities and our mobility solutions on a global scale."
Mahindra Racing made its Moto3 debut six years ago and celebrated its first podium finish with Miguel Oliveira in 2013. By 2015, the manufacturer shifted its efforts to bike and engine supplying on the grid and is currently supplying to three teams - Aspar, CIP and sister brand Peugeot Saxoprint. In 2016, the team made some staggering progress by becoming the first Indian manufacturer to claim a grand prix victory exactly a year ago in the Assen race with Francesco Bagnaia.
In addition, the Peugeot-badged Mahindra with John McPhee took a win at Brno, while Bagnaia took a second win at Sepang for Mahindra. The team even gifted him his last year's MGP30 race bike as a token of appreciation, even as Bagnaia moved to Moto2 this year. In its six years, Mahindra recorded a total of 13 podium finishes.
Once a promising team, Mahindra has faced a dramatic drop in performance this season with the best race finish of 14th. That said, the team announced that it will continue to provide factory-backed support to the three outfits until the end of this season.
Mahindra's exit from Moto3 is not only a big blow to the aspiring MotoGP dreams in India, but more importantly to the company's plans in the two wheeler business. Mahindra 2Wheelers has already been in the doldrums with the focus shifted towards niche products, and the absence of the racing outfit could limit the company's efforts further in this space. However, it needs to be seen if there could be more involvement from sister brand Peugeot for Mahindra's two wheeler ambitions.
While the move has been certainly an unprecedented one, it's also being seen with the company's objective of entering other motorsport arenas. Going strong with the third position in the Formula E constructors' standings, speculations suggest that Mahindra is looking to enter the gruelling Dakar rally and might just shift funds there. The company would be the third Indian manufacturer to do so after Hero MotoCorp and TVS, and is likely to enter the rally with a souped version of the XUV500, used in the Indian Rally Championship (IRC).