John McPhee labeled his debut podium as 'the best outcome we could have possibly asked for' as a tyre gamble paid off in adverse conditions and resulted in the Scot's debut grand prix podium.
The 21-year old Scot, who has struggled with bike set-up throughout the season, qualified in 18th but as rain peppered the track before the Moto3 race McPhee was one of a handful of riders to gamble on slick tyres before the lights went out.
Forced into starting from pit lane, McPhee had to gingerly navigate his way through the field as the track dried and the majority of the field pitted for dry rubber.
He rapidly progressed through the field to sit second at the close of lap five after ending the first lap in 27th. From there it was all about nursing his Honda to the flag for Scotland's first podium in grand prix since Niall Mackenzie in 1993.
“It's the best outcome we could have possibly asked for,” said a delighted McPhee. “A great feeling, but it's not the perfect conditions, a little bit of luck went our way, but we do know that we're capable of winning races and podiums and we just need things to get sorted out a little bit more team-wise, and get a little bit better package underneath, and I'm sure we can be up there a bit more consistently.
“Literally about two minutes from the start of the race, we said, OK, let's put them [slicks] on, but immediately the guys from IRTA came over and said 'Off the grid', and I thought, 'What's going on here?' I couldn't really remember 100% what the rules were, I didn't know if that was us disqualified, or what it was, but they said, go and start from pit lane and you'll still have a good chance from there.
“I was really focused from the first laps, I knew had to take it that little bit easy, but as the race went on, I built my pace and felt more confident. It's definitely the longest race I've ever had, but it was absolutely great to come across the line on the podium.”
With only seven riders circulating on the same lap for the majority of the race, McPhee was aware of Philipp Oettl behind, who began to close the gap to second mid-race.
“I saw there was a big gap there, and I was keeping an eye on my pit board, and I didn't want to go crazy because it would be so easy to throw the bike down the road, and then it's a waste of a good result. So I was keeping an eye on the pit board, obviously the ultimate goal was the podium, and I knew he wasn't coming close enough.
“If he had got within five seconds, six seconds, I'd really have to try and knuckle down, but the gap was always above 10 seconds, so I had a comfortable gap and felt quite confident as the race went on.”
Until the race it had been another difficult weekend for McPhee, who struggled to remain upbeat after a demoralising first session, in which he languished in 23rd. Still, the Oban rider kept calm and made steady progress throughout the weekend.
“It was still difficult. We turned up here after a really hard summer break, a lot of people went on holiday, but I went back home, I was training really hard, day in, day out, and tried to make sure I turned up here in the best possible way I could. We got here, went out in FP1 really motivated and basically finished the session exactly as we finished the race in Sachsenring, there was no improvement, no progress made, and still had the exact same issues. So that was a little bit disappointing for me, that we hadn't managed to make any progress over the summer break.
“We chipped away through the weekend and come FP3 and qualifying, we made a little bit of a step forward, but still not where we can be. We're close laptime wise, but still not where we should be up there in the top 15. It's been difficult, but like I say, the race is the day that counts, the only thing that counts at the end of the weekend, and to finish on the podium, I was absolutely delighted.”