MotoGP Sepang: McPhee salvages victory from despair

| | MotoGP
Picture: GeeBee Images

John McPhee went from almost quitting to the top step of the Malaysian Moto3 podium on Sunday after a dramatic fightback from 22nd.

A disastrous weekend, in what has literally been a back-breaking and continuously challenging season, turned on a sixpence on Sunday as McPhee wrestled his Sterilgarda Husqvarna from the eighth row of the Sepang grid to victory with a sensational recovery. Having advanced through the pack to the top five with four to go, the Scotsman continued to stun on the last lap with a move from fifth to first at the penultimate corner, a position he defended until the flag with teammate Ayumu Sasaki second.

“I don’t know what to say,” McPhee admitted as the celebrations subsided. “It has been the toughest season of my career. It’s not been easy. I’ve been underperforming and struggling and not able to get the results I’ve been wanting and especially this weekend has been really, really tough but we worked hard at it. We changed a lot of things, even after warm up, for the race we changed a lot of things and I just had the determination.

“Yesterday I was really, really down about everything. Didn’t really want to even see it through till the end.

“But to be honest, I managed to reset, regroup, come back today and so happy to be there and fighting for the podium. It was a case of ‘win it or bin it’ so happy not to take Ayumu out in the last corner. The best finished to a tough weekend.

“The race for me was quite strange,” he continued. “Like I said, we changed quite a lot for the race so the first few laps, although I was attacking, I was trying to understand what exactly I had as well to fight. Honestly the bike was good today, I rode as hard as I could, the first 10 laps especially, trying to understand, I was nearly crashing every lap.

“But then, once I closed the gap and caught that group of ten, I thought ‘okay, now I can kind of calm down, try and get my breath back, kinda ease into it’. Then when the group split again the second time, I had to work really, really hard to get back on them, and when I got on them I said ‘okay, now’s my chance. I know they’re going to fight the last few corners’.

“Turn 14, the whole race I was carrying a really tight line because where the joins of the tarmac, there it was quite wet. So it’s quite risky going through 14 in the front. So the whole race I was holding a really tight line and when everyone tried to prepare the exit, I thought ‘okay, now’s my chance. Let’s just lead out this second last corner and see what we can do’. So it was kind of just from that second last corner I thought ‘I have a chance here’.”

While McPhee was back celebrating, his future remains in doubt. Too old to continue in the lightweight class having turned 28 in July, the Scotsman’s initial hopes were set on a jump to Moto2 but with teams either already secure, or expecting vast sums of money for seats, his options may lead him further afield.

“Honestly at the moment, I still don’t know for next year,” McPhee said on Sunday. “We have nothing signed, we’re speaking with quite a few teams. Of course is my last year in Moto3. The target initially was to be in Moto2 but it was proving very difficult. So I’m motivated to take a switch to the Superbike paddock, maybe in Supersport but like I say, there’s nothing confirmed there. I’m looking for a good seat, I’m excited to try a bigger bike in a different category because I believe we can do a good job there.”

Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images