John McPhee travels to Argentina for the second round of the Moto3 championship believing he and his CIP KTM have the potential to challenge for the race win after an impressive fight-back through the field in Qatar.

The 23-year old Scot showed podium potential at the Losail International Circuit despite his preseason being continually interrupted by inclement weather and niggling mechanical issues.

A crash at the penultimate corner on the final lap put paid to his chances of a surprise top three finish, but McPhee’s speed over the weekend, coupled with his recovery from ending the first lap outside the top ten, led him to conclude his 2018 package has the potential to be competitive at the upcoming races.

“[That was] Really important,” he said at Losail. “Obviously last year everything went perfect [in the winter]. We had a new team, factory HRC support, some really good backing with the likes of Alberto Puig. We did everything right and had a brilliant first weekend.

“Whereas this year’s been different. We’ve jumped manufacturers, we’ve jumped team. Everyone is new to me. We didn’t have a great preseason because of the weather. We never got a proper feel for it. Then to arrive and fight for the podium is more special than [doing so] with everything running so smooth. It certainly shows there is potential.

“Moving forward we’ve got a base setting. We arrived here not knowing what the bike was going to do. We’ve got a base setting we can work from and I’m going to Argentina now thinking, ‘Let’s fight for the win,’ rather than not knowing what to expect.”

On the first race in Qatar, McPhee explained his early issues in the race stemmed from the failure of a thumb-operated rear brake that he has started using on the KTM in 2018.

“Basically the biggest thing that messed me up at the start was – it has nothing to do with the team, it wasn’t there fault – the rear brake failed on the first lap. I always have a problem trying to use the foot brake so we put a thumb brake on the bike. I use it on nine corners here.

“When that failed, with this bike it doesn’t turn unless you’re on the rear brake. I was really struggling to get the thing to turn and kept overloading the front tyre. That’s basically what happened in the crash; I went in there much deeper than I normally would.

“Normally I’d release the front brake and stand on the rear to get the thing turned and I ended up overloading the front tyre. It’s nice to be able to carry that pace and come through without the rear brake when it’s so important on the KTM. It definitely shows the potential is there.

“I went with the hard tyre. I knew at the end of the race I was going to be strong. I tried to position myself as best as I could. I basically led into the last corner going onto the last lap. I thought if I was first out of the last corner I would get swamped.

“I basically let one rider through. When the second came by they actually hit me and then sat me up. I got swamped down the straight. I was fifth in the group, which was seventh overall. I went into the last lap seventh, managed to pass two guys. With two corners to go I tried passing another one and basically just closed the front at the second to the last corner.

“I could see the podium and there was potential there to grab it. I made a mistake. Obviously, sorry to the team, it’s frustrating. But at the same time we arrived here not knowing what to expect.

“Preseason testing wasn’t so bad lap time-wise but we didn’t know whether we would be fighting for top tens. But to be fighting for the last position on the podium is showing some good potential. We have an exciting couple of races to look forward to.”

 

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