John McPhee will start tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix at Mugello from pole position after taking over the top spot when fastest man Jorge Martin was penalised for slow riding during the day’s earlier free practice three session.
There was confusion after the session, though, with McPhee also initially penalised for cruising, with race control believing he was waiting for another rider for a slipstream on Mugello’s long start finish straight. But after an appeal – and a review by race control afterwards – he will now start tomorrow’s race from the top spot.
“I admitted that I slowed down in one session to find a bit of track position because I wasn’t in a very good group – but I only lost three seconds. Then, I came around on another lap and set a personal best in sectors one and two then found five guys right in the middle of the track, and had to run wide to avoid them.”
The session saw multiple people penalised for slow riding (including pole man Martin), thanks to the importance of securing a good slipstream on the long start finish – something McPhee says is worth up to a second a lap on the lightweight Moto3 machines.
“it was a nightmare of a session because everyone was going slow and messing each other up. I didn’t need anyone fast to follow, just a fast bike for the slipstream into turn one. I ended up working well with Enea Bastianini though – I made the first move in helping him, took one in the chin and towed him in, and then we started working well together. And it’s a nice feeling to be back where we should be.”
Returning to the front after a difficult few rounds in Jerez and Le Mans – something he attributes in part to his British Talent Team’s hard work at the test after the French race two weeks ago – he says that he believes he can well and truly be in the mix tomorrow.
“I feel strong, we haven’t changed a single thing on the bike since free practice one and I’ve been consistently fast. Everything’s looking promising and I’ll definitely be in the front group – but I don’t think anyone is going to break away. It’s just so hard, because even if you manage to gap the guys by half a second they’ll be back on you by turn one. Instead, we’re going to see a train of twenty riders for at least half the race.”