#ThaiGP Buriram, Sunday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
It’s turning out to be an absolute dog fight for the 2023 MotoGP™ Championship as the gap in the standings is reduced back down to just 13 points with three rounds remaining. How? Pure magic, with Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) coming out on top against Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) in a nail-biting, gloves off and all-out awesome battle for victory at Buriram. Martin won and Binder crossed the line in P2 but exceeded track limits on the final lap, so Bagnaia takes those sweet, sweet 20 points. And did we mention it was also the fourth closest premier class podium finish of all time? Just 0.253 covered the top three.
No holds barred on the opening laps
It was a tense affair as the riders lined up on the grid ready for battle in Buriram, with clouds looming but the skies staying dry as another 25 points went into play.
When the lights went out, Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) got the jump on Martin off the line, but the polesitter held firm into Turn 1 as he stuck it around the outside of the Italian. Bagnaia was fast-starting as well, in contrast to 24 hours earlier in the Sprint, as he got the launch that he needed to fly up from sixth on the grid to fourth.
The gloves were off in the opening laps as Martin led the way. Aleix Espargaro(Aprilia Racing) pushed his way past Marini for second, whilst Binder was on an absolute mission further back. The South African lunged up the inside of Bagnaia for fourth as he sent the World Champion wide, that also allowing Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) to further demote the number-one-plated Ducati to sixth.
Martin didn’t bolt in the early stages as the Spaniard has done before. Instead, the elbows were out in the leading group as Bagnaia was under pressure and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) soon joined the party, going wheel to wheel with the #1.
Some close exchanges were made between the two Champions as they battled it out for sixth, until Bagnaia ran the Repsol Honda to the edge of the circuit with his sights firmly set on the bikes ahead, message forcibly received as he was then able to start pulling away.
With 20 laps remaining the race began to calm slightly, albeit briefly, as Martin led the way from Binder. Behind, Alex Marquez had made his way into third but had Marini, Aleix Espargaro, Bagnaia, and Marc Marquez for company.
As Binder shadowed Martin, however, Bagnaia was getting in the groove. He proceeded to carve his way through the group as he set fastest lap after fastest lap, and by 17 laps remaining the reigning Champion had made his way back up to fourth, with Alex Marquez locked in his sights.
Bagnaia was making steady progress on third, but then it changed anyway. AM73’s glorious charge was done as he slid out, rider ok but that promoting Pecco to P3. All that lay up ahead was a KTM and one more Ducati.
Martin vs Binder vs Bagnaia
Binder waited until the final seven laps to show his first hand. He lunged his way through on the Spaniard, but couldn’t quite make it stick as Martin got the cutback. The two then proceeded to exchange paintwork over the course of the next lap. Bagnaia, meanwhile, had long since caught the duo and watched on.
Eventually Binder did get the better of Martin as he replicated his Turn 8 move with five laps to go, this time leaving no room for Martin to bite back and taking the race lead. The roles were reversed, with the number 89 now piling on the pressure.
It stayed tense as close as ever until Turn 2 on the penultimate lap. Martin shot back through on Binder on the brakes, choosing his strategy for the final lap clearly enough: he would defend. And that as Bagnaia tried to sweep past both in one on the penultimate go round the final corner.
The final lap was tense as Martin dug in, but it was far from enough breathing space to relax. Binder was harrying the number 89 apex after apex, and Bagnaia was looking for his own gap. Streaming down into the final corner for the very final time, three machines dropped anchor and piled into the apex, but there was no open door, no quarter given, and no mistakes made from the trio.
Martin took the victory after soaking up that stunning amount of pressure, completing his fourth double of the season. Binder crossed the line second but his error had come earlier on the final lap with track limits biting him once again, demoting the South African to third. Still, he becomes the rider from South Africa with the most premier class podiums, taking his ninth.
Bagnaia takes that 20 points for second to keep his lead at 13 points, after once again getting his elbows out all the way home.
Fights up and down the field
Just two seconds back from the podium battle was Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). The Italian was making some big moves as he climbed up to fourth place, including a mid-race battle with his teammate Marini which saw the pair exchanging paintwork corner after corner.
Marini faded in the latter stages and dropped down to seventh position, with Aleix Espargaro first to pick up the pieces as he crossed the line in 5th. A post-race penalty for a second tyre pressure offence demoted the Aprilia rider to eighth in the end however. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Marc Marquez therefore take fifth and sixth, and Quartararo vs Marc Marquez was also an electriyfing duel later in the race, and one the Frenchman won.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) was next across the line as he took ninth place, with Phillip Island victor Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) rounding out the top ten.
Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools SpeedUp) was simply unstoppable at the OR Thailand Grand Prix as he hit the front, hit the gas and didn’t look back – leaving Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) waiting for another shot at the crown in Malaysia as the number 37 was forced to settle for second in Buriram. Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) took the final spot on the podium as he put in a stunner on home turf, delighting the home crowd.
Polesitter Aldeguer took the holeshot, with Acosta holding second. Marcos Ramirez(OnlyFans American Racing) had his elbows out as the lights went out, the Spaniard initially flying up to third from the second row.
Aldeguer put the hammer down right from the off, asking big questions of the Championship leader. Acosta did all he could to stick with the Boscoscuro, but Aldeguer began to sail away and from there, only one small mistake at the final corner denied the number 54 true perfection on his way to an incredible win.
Behind the top two, the home fans were enthralled as a tantalising battle for the podium began to emerge with the home hero Chantra putting Ramirez under pressure. The move came from Chantra with 17 laps remaining as a perfectly executed Turn 2 overtake ignited the home crowd.
There was drama elsewhere though, with Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) crashing out after making big contact with Celestino Vietti (Fantic Racing).
Meanwhile, Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) was a rider on a mission as the Italian was slowly picking his way through the pack, determined not to let his title rival seal the deal in Thailand. Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) was also on a charge after a tough qualifying, slicing up through the order.
At the front though, Aldeguer couldn’t be stopped and took a stunning second GP win, with Acosta using his “head not heart” to settle for those very valuable 20 points for second. Chantra, meanwhile, had his own breathing space to control and the home hero did just that, bringing home a podium to a rapturous reception.
Arbolino fought his way through to fourth, and Ogura’s charge saw him get into the top five as Ramirez faded to a still notable sixth place finish.
David Alonso (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) is now a four-time Grand Prix winner, the Moto3™ Rookie of the Year AND a serious contender for the 2023 Championship after the Colombian came out on top in an awesome showdown at the OR Thailand Grand Prix. The number 80 was able to just stay ahead of a three-way drag to the line to decide the podium positions behind him, with Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia) and Collin Veijer (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) taking second and third, respectively – awesome maiden podiums for both.
Championship leader Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) may not have taken a podium but he did increase his lead as disaster struck for Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) through no fault of his own, unable to avoid contact with David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports) after an apparent mechanical for the Spaniard – and Sasaki rejoining before later retiring and taking home nil points.
As the lights went out, polesitter Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took the holeshot before Sasaki sliced through, but Masia was the early big mover as he grabbed a handful of places off the line to take over in second. It was early doors though, with a huge group at the front – and big drama right around the corner.
What seemed to be a mechanical issue for Muñoz saw the BOE machine drop like a stone round Turn 4, and right on the racing line… with Sasaki the first rider who couldn’t avoid contact, along with Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) as the Spaniard was forced wide. Riders all ok, but Holgado rejoined in P27 and set off on an almighty charge, Muñoz later headed back out but was forced in, and Sasaki first carried on before being forced to retire in a huge title twist.
Back at the front, the gloves were off in a classic big leading group. But lap by lap it became a battle of five by the final five laps – until the elbows came out again, allowing those behind to close back in. Meanwhile on Holgado watch, the Spaniard was on an absolute charge up into P8 by two to go, as at the very front Veijer led Masia, Alonso and Furusato.
Onto the final lap, a bobble between Öncü and Holgado at the final corner created a small gap behind the leading four of Veijer, Alonso, Masia and Furusato, but soon they had closed back in.
Most of the front quartet headed a little wide with few moves, only Masia able to move through. Then it suddenly looked like Veijer was out of the fight for the win after a huge moment out the seat at the exit of Turn 4, leaving Alonso leading Furusato – with Masia shadowing the Japanese rider. But it wasn’t over. By the braking zone into the final corner, the Dutchman was right back into it.
Alonso retained the lead into that final corner, with Masia attacking Furusato just behind. The Championship leader got it done but then found Alonso on the apex and overcooked it, and that allowed Furusato to cut back up the inside – as did Veijer.
As Alonso took that magical fourth win of the year and confirmed himself the 2023 Rookie of the Year as well as a serious title threat, the fight for second became a drag to the line. And Furusato won it, taking his first Grand Prix podium in incredible style – the exact same phrase that can be said of Veijer as both hit a milestone.
Masia was forced to settle for fourth but with the disaster for Sasaki still increases his lead – now 17 points ahead of the Japanese rider. Alonso is now third, 25 points back and equal on points with Holgado in fourth after the Tech3 rider’s incredible comeback charge. Öncü took fifth in the race and is fifth in the Championship, now 39 off the top.
Behind Holgado in that impressive P6, Matteo Bertelle (Rivacold Snipers Team) beat Riccardo Rossi (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Ryusei Yamanaka (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) and Kaito Toba (SIC58 Squadra Corse) as they completed the top ten just ahead of Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team), the final rider in that front group.