John McPhee's push for victory in the closing laps of the Qatar Moto3 season opener were 'quite possibly his best with this team'.

Those were the words of Petronas Sprinta team director Johan Stigefelt, when describing how the Scot fought his way to within 0.053s of race winner Albert Arenas.

"Our plan was to attack in the last three or four laps and that’s what John did," Stigefelt said.

"Maybe in the beginning he was a bit too cautious and was staying a bit too far back, but he rode a very clever race and the last few laps were quite possibly his best with this team."

Revelling in remaining with the same team, bike and crew for the first time in his world championship career, McPhee had spent the pre-season focussing on his race pace.

"I’ve worked with my crew and really focused on being alone on track to work on the race pace," said McPhee, who took one win on his way to fifth overall in last season's world championship. "To then put all the practice into the performance was a really nice feeling."

McPhee qualified in ninth place in Qatar, but was pushed back to twelfth during a frantic start to the race.

"The first seven or eight laps caught me a little unawares as I didn’t expect some of the guys to be so strong," he said. "I knew that my main strength was at the end of the race on the used tyre so I was keeping that in mind trying to stay with the top seven. I almost put the perfect plan together."

Indeed, McPhee was in the wheeltracks of race leader Arenas heading into the final corner.

"I thought about making a lunge [for victory] on the last corner but I knew from watching races from the last few years that only once has someone been able to lead from the last corner across the line so I thought it was a good plan to be second out of the last corner. It didn’t pay off but I’m really happy with the podium," he said.

"It’s a fantastic way to start and I’m so happy for the team and for everyone that’s been working hard around me to make this possible."

Team-mate and fellow double Moto3 race winner Khairul Idham Pawi finished just 26th during his return to the 250cc four-stroke class.

"It was a very difficult last season not to be racing. I need to build my confidence again after being injured and so we keep working towards this and results will come," said the Malaysian, who left Moto3 at the end of his rookie 2016 season and was sidelined due to injury for most of last year's Moto2 campaign.

"From the beginning it has been quite difficult for 'KIP' to adapt to the Moto3 bike but he’s been working his way through," said Stigefelt. "He’s just too slow at the moment, we need to pick up the pace and he needs to start understanding the bike, which will come.

"We don’t want him to lose confidence so we continue to support him and help him adapt. I’m sure it will come soon for him though."

 

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