John McPhee claimed his first Moto3 podium of 2021 at the Circuit of the Americas, in what was almost a one-two for his Petronas team.
A dramatic morning saw the Moto3 action red flagged on two separate occasions. One for the crash of Filip Salac, when McPhee was running strongly in third, and then again when he was firmly in charge overall of what should have been a five-lap sprint. The second stoppage brought and end to the lightweight class racing, with Deniz Öncü and Jeremy Alcoba colliding down the back straight, Andrea Migno and Pedro Acosta being sent skywards in the aftermath. While the four riders were all okay, it could have been a lot worse and questions were immediately raised. The Tech3 rider being sanctioned later, and suspended from the next two European events.
The results were eventually confirmed with the standings from the original stoppage, seeing McPhee take the third step on the podium, but for the Petronas rider the celebrations were tinged with a case of what could have been.
“It was a crazy race! Thankfully I didn’t see too much of the incidents that happened and I hope the guys are all okay,” he said from Parc Fermé on Sunday.
“I’m really, really happy with our performance today - I felt comfortable all weekend but we’ve done a lot of laps alone so the position was not great, we were struggling in that sector three without a slipstream. But then in the race obviously that completely changed and I was like 'okay I'm strong in every other sector and now I have the advantage of having the guys in front to get a slipstream from' so I felt good.
“Big thanks to the team because the bike was working so well. They gave me the tools for the job today, I was able to ride the way I needed to ride and be able to attack and be strong. I could brake so deep and turn so well, so I managed to fight my way through. I was in the front three at the end of that first stop and thought ‘Okay, right we're starting front row here, let's try and make the most of it’.
"After the first lap I was leading the race, managed to pull out a couple of tenths gap but then it got red flagged To have the first podium of the season, which is crazy to say at this point, I’m really, really happy. A win would have been great but rules are rules so it is what it is. I was feeling so strong I would have been up for having another restart, but we can’t be disappointed with that. We were fast enough to win the race but we’ll take the podium.
“Honestly it has been the toughest season of my career so far, we've been fast at every single race and had the pace, we've just not had luck on our side. To be this far into the season and have the first podium of the year, is a shame but it would have been even worse to finish the year without one. So I'll take it. I'm really happy to have this podium.
“We've struggled a bit this year,” he continued. "Obviously KTM's came really strong and we feel like alone we can do a really good job with a lap time and that's why we see in a lot of practices we can be right up there but then in the race, we're having to ride in a different type of way. Today me and Darryn both were feeling a bit depressed this morning, after the last couple of days and said 'today, it's going to be a win it or bin it day' so when we came round and seen one and two on the board after the second red flag we didn't know whether to start jumping up and down or whether to keep calm, we didn't know what to do. Shame that he's not up here with me but still a few races to try and make it happen.”
With the controversy surrounding the second race, and the ongoing discussions of rider behaviour in the Moto3 class, the veteran was quick to voice his opinion, despite not being witness to Sunday’s dramatic events.
“One thing I do know, that does need to change is the swerving on the straight,” he said, pointedly. “There's a lot of riders taking too much risk now on the straights.
“We've seen, I led the race onto the back straight there and still led at the end of the back straight and okay I stuck to the left side, but I didn't swerve at all. So, this is something that needs to change, how you change I don't know but this particular crash I didn't see, so I can't comment.”