#ThaiGP Buriram, Saturday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
The pressure is well and truly back on for reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia(Ducati Lenovo Team) as key title rival Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) bounced back from Australian GP disappointment to take a statement Tissot Sprint victory at the OR Thailand Grand Prix. That brings the gap down from 27 to just 18 points, with Bagnaia only managing P7 on Saturday… meaning the Championship lead goes back on the table on Sunday.
There was more to the Sprint than a Martin masterclass, however, as Brad Binder(Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) duelled Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and was then able to close the gap the winner to less than a second. Headlines were made just behind that battle too as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) made a stunning final corner dive on Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) for fourth.
Lights out in Buriram
As the lights went out, it wasn’t the best start for Martin but it was enough for the number 89 to head off a Turn 1 charge from Marini. From there it was hammer down for the Spaniard, with the Mooney VR46 machine denied and settling into second ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Binder, who had moved up into fourth.
The bigger drama was for Bagnaia as he dropped down to ninth, and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) also had a tougher start as he was pushed wide and lost out too. The big winner? Marc Marquez as he moved up into fifth early doors.
The first big moves saw Aleix Espargaro attack Marini but find the door shut, a problem not encountered by Binder soon after as the KTM shot past the Aprilia, up into third. That set up what would become the duel behind Martin, with the number 33 tailgating Marini lap after lap.
Meanwhile, Marc Marquez was on the move. A brilliant dive up the inside of Aleix Espargaro saw the number 93 take over in fourth, but the number 41 repaid the favour not long after to take it back and then extend a little – very little – breathing space.
Up at the front, Martin was starting to build his own clear air. The number 89 was edging away tenth by tenth, with Marini still holding on ahead of Binder and the KTM looking a little impatient with it.
Gloves off in the podium battle
With Martin over 1.5s up the road, Marini and Binder were left to battle it out as the laps ticked away. Binder was all over the back of the VR46 machine but couldn’t find a way through until eight laps to go. The South African made a first move but headed wide, with Marini slicing straight back through. Next lap around though, it was time for take two. The KTM shot through at the final corner and the two headed side-by-side down the straight, mission accomplished and a new one unlocked: hold Marini off.
The Italian latched himself onto the back of the KTM ahead as Aleix Espargaro also joined the party, shadowing Marini’s every move, and the same was true of Marc Marquez harrying Bezzecchi just behind.
Bagnaia, down in P7, was the rider on the move in terms of pace though, homing in on the VR46-MM93 duel. Before he arrived, Marc Marquez was able to make a move stick on Bezzecchi though, and from there the Repsol Honda headed off on the chase behind Aleix Espargaro.
Two duels, one final corner
Over a second clear as the final lap began, the number 41 then made a big mistake and all-of-sudden he had Marc Marquez for more than close company. The number 93 was side by side by side with the Aprilia but denied, leaving it all going down to the final corner.
As Martin crossed the line just under a second clear of Binder and Marini secured third, the focus shifted to the final apex. Marc Marquez was right on Aleix Espargaro and Bagnaia was right on Bezzecchi, and it looked like it could be two parallel lunges as the four riders all dropped anchor. However, it was only the Repsol Honda who decided to go for it and he made it stick, nabbing fourth from Aleix Espargaro and holding it to the line as Bezzecchi held off Bagnaia in the fight for sixth.
Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) came home eighth after getting his own elbows out both in the group and against Phillip Island winner Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), with the Frenchman forced to settle for ninth. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) just missed out on a point in P10.
It’s back-to-back pole positions for Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools SpeedUp) after his 1:35.371 saw him top the timesheets in Moto2™ qualifying at the OR Thailand Grand Prix, denying title protagonist Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as the number 37 is forced to settle for second on the grid ahead of his first match point. Albert Arenas (Red Bull KTM Ajo) nabbed the final spot on the front row, denying Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) by 0.020s.
Home hero Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) rounds out the top five as he guns for glory, with Marcos Ramirez (OnlyFans American Racing) on row two after more impressive pace. The third row of the grid went to Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools SpeedUp), Tony Arbolino (Elf MarcVDS Racing Team), and Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team), with Arbolino in the spotlight as he needs to finish better than tenth if Acosta wins. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) rounds out the top ten on the grid.
The stage is set for our first Championship showdown of the season, with some history on the line for Acosta. Can he wrap it up? Can Aldeguer deny him the win? Or will Chantra use that home crowd to make some waves?
Pole position at the OR Thailand Grand Prix went the way of Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) after the Turkish rider put down an impressive 1:42.061. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider already took the all-time lap record in Practice and was just a tenth shy of it in Q2 which was just enough to clinch pole. Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) will line up alongside the Turk as the young Brazilian missed out pole by just 0.057s to finish in P2, and rounding out the front row will be second in the Championship Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP), whose lap time was just 0.001s shy of Moreira.
Championship leader Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing), meanwhile, is down in P7.
Ryusei Yamanaka (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) took 4th place after missing out on the front row by just 0.093s. The Japanese rider crashed late in the session, but was declared fit after a check up. He is set to head row two ahead of Collin Veijer (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) and Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia), the latter another faller in Q2 and from a hot lap. Rider ok.
Masia is next up in seventh, and the Championship leader also came across Yellow Flags late on. Joining the Spaniard on row three will be his teammate Adrian Fernandez (Leopard Racing) and Jose Antonio Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo), with David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports)) rounding out the top 10 and title challenger Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo) down in P11.