The VROOM Blog #ThaiGP – Jorge Martin scorches to perfect weekend in Buriram
The MotoGP paddock headed to the Chang International Circuit this weekend for the Thai GP, and the final race in a triple header before a well-deserved weekend off. Alex Rins was absent from the paddock having returned home following his withdrawal from the Australian GP weekend. He has had a further surgery to alleviate the pain in his leg, and was not replaced by the team for this weekend.
Marc Marquez had a special helmet for this weekend, which he said was to show the beauty of the temples in Thailand. It was a beautiful helmet in blue and gold, and was worn with matching boots and gloves. Alberto Puig confirmed this weekend that there will be no objection from Honda regarding Marc riding for Ducati at the end of season test at Valencia.
In Moto2 this weekend, Pedro Acosta had his first opportunity to secure the title, but when asked about it heading into the weekend Acosta said it was a long-shot for this weekend as he would have to outscore Tony Arbolino by 19 points in the race. He was right – the championship battle will rumble on to Sepang next time out as Acosta finished in 2nd place with Arbolino in 4th.
FP1 kicked off on Friday morning with an early 1-2 for Yamaha duo Fabio Quartararo and Franky Morbidelli, but the session was ultimately topped by Jorge Martin, ahead of Maverick Viñales and Pol Espargaro – all of whom finished the session on fresh tyres.
The all-important Practice session on Friday afternoon saw Marc Marquez riding around as if he was glued to the back of Jorge Martin’s Ducati. As the pair headed into the pits half way through the 60-minute session, Martin ran over the pit lane markers, and one of them was thrown up, hitting Marc in the shoulder. Marc said afterwards that it hurt for a minute or so, but there was no lasting impact.
With fast lap times a must, most riders were heading back out on track with new tyres on with 15 minutes remaining on the clock, and once again Marquez was on the back of Martin. After a few more laps, Maverick Viñales was heading the times from Zarco, Binder, Martin, and Quartararo as everyone pulled back into the pits with less than 8 minutes left to secure a top 10 lap time and a direct place in Q2.
As most riders headed back out, Marc was once again hanging around waiting for Martin to go, but Martin was taking his sweet time and was simply sitting on his bike in pitlane waiting. Marc headed out and cruised around for a while until he found Diggia and Augusto Fernandez, and jumped in between them.
Jorge Martin set the fastest lap of the session before crashing at turn 3 with a minute remaining – he topped the session and would be joined in Q2 by Viñales, Aleix Espargaro, Zarco, Marini, Bezzecchi, Bagnaia, Quartararo, Binder, and Augusto Fernandez, who finds himself directly through to Q2 for the first time in his rookie season.
FP2 on Saturday morning was topped by Aprilia teammates Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro, ahead of Bagnaia, Quartararo, and Oliveira.
Following quickly on from FP2, Q1 got underway. After the first runs, it was Alex Marquez leading Marc Marquez at the top of the times, and as everyone headed back out for their final runs, there was again a lot of cruising going on as riders tried to follow each other.
Jack Miller was doing his best to shake Marc Marquez, but it was to no avail and he towed the Spaniard to the top of the times, while only reaching 5th himself. As the chequered flag came out, Alex Marquez went faster again to top the times as he and Marc headed through to Q2.
After the first runs in Q2, Jorge Martin was leading the times with a new all-time lap record, ahead of Bezzecchi and Binder. With 5 minutes left of the session, riders left the pits for a final attempt at a lap time that would give them a good grid position, and Jorge Martin found Marc Marquez on his tail once again. Jorge wasn’t messing around though, and pulled away at such a pace that he was able to put 3 riders between himself and Marc.
Marc jumped on the back of Bagnaia instead, as Marco Bezzecchi set a new lap record to top the times. Jorge went faster again though to top the session and claim pole position ahead of Luca Marini and Aleix Espargaro. Bezzecchi, Binder, and Bagnaia would make up row two, while rows three and four would be filled by Alex Marquez, Marc Marquez, Viñales, Quartararo, Zarco, and Augusto Fernandez.
The temperatures were soaring as the riders lined up on the grid ahead of the Sprint on Saturday afternoon, and despite a slightly bumpy start, it was Jorge Martin who was leading the race by turn 1. Marini, Aleix Espargaro, and Binder followed Martin through turn 1, before Aleix passed Marini for 2nd place only for Marini to take the position straight back.
Bagnaia hadn’t made the best of starts from the second row, and was soon being passed by both Alex Marquez and Johann Zarco as he was demoted down to 9th. Aleix Espargaro was also quickly bumped back as Binder and Marc Marquez passed him on lap 2.
As Taka Nakagami crashed at the final turn on lap 2, Jorge Martin had already pulled a lead of almost a second over Luca Marini. Aleix Espargaro passed Marc Marquez for 4th place, while Bezzecchi passed Alex Marquez for 6th and then Marc for 5th. There was lots of scrapping going on, and as Alex Marquez tried to pass Zarco, Bagnaia sailed past them both for 7th place.
By lap 6 you could see that Binder was getting frustrated in 3rd behind Marini, he managed to pass him but ran wide allowing Marini straight back through. Augusto Fernandez crashed out of the race at turn 12 at the end of lap 6.
Brad Binder finally made the move stick on Luca Marini at the final turn on lap 7, while Aleix Espargaro was closing in on the pair of them. Fabio Di Giannantonio pulled into the pits to end his race at the end of lap 9. There were track limits warnings being handed out all over the place, and by lap 11 the only riders in the top 10 not to have warnings were the leading 3 of Martin, Binder, and Marini.
The final lap of the 13 lap Sprint saw a fierce battle between Aleix Espargaro and Marc Marquez for 4th place, with Marc clinching it with a final move on Aleix into the last corner. Jorge Martin took the win ahead of Binder and Marini, with Marc and Aleix in 4th and 5th. The final points were taken by Bezzecchi, Bagnaia, Alex Marquez, and Zarco.
With Martin winning his 5th Sprint on the bounce, and Bagnaia finishing back in 7th, Bagnaia’s lead in the championship was cut to 18 points, while Brad Binder is officially no longer able to win the championship. Brad being mathematically out of the championship battle means that Ducati are guaranteed to win the MotoGP championship, the only question remaining is whether it will be the factory effort with Bagnaia, or one of the satellite teams with Martin or Bezzecchi?
Warm up on Sunday morning was topped by Quartararo ahead of Bagnaia and Morbidelli.
Before we got to MotoGP on Sunday, the Moto3 race saw the Moto3 Rookie of the year crowned as Aspar’s David Alonso took his fourth win of the season to seal the Rookie crown with 3 rounds remaining.
It was hot and humid as the riders and fans were treated to the national anthem ahead of the 26 lap MotoGP race on Sunday, but there were also dark clouds beginning to loom ominously above. Thankfully those clouds didn’t burst, and as the lights went out, it was Luca Marini who got the best start off the line, but Jorge Martin was still the rider to lead into turn 1, with Aleix Espargaro behind Marini in 3rd. Bagnaia made a much better start than he had in the Sprint, and was up to 4th place ahead of Binder, Alex Marquez, Viñales, and Bezzecchi.
Bagnaia’s good start was thwarted somewhat by Binder pushing him wide as he passed him for 4th and Alex Marquez following the South African through, leaving Bagnaia back in 6th place. Bagnaia pushed his way back past Alex Marquez, making contact with the Gresini Ducati, but Alex was back through again at the final turn, before Binder passed Marini for 3rd.
On lap 4 Bagnaia and Marc Marquez were battling for 6th place, with Marc managing to hold on to 6th until Bagnaia barged him wide on lap 5 to take the place from him. Meanwhile, Binder had taken 2nd place from Espargaro. Espargaro went backwards, with Marini and Alex Marquez both getting past him, before Alex Marquez moved ahead of Marini for 3rd place.
Miguel Oliveira was forced to retire from the race having been given the “meatball” flag on lap 7, while Bagnaia passed Aleix for 5th with Marc following him through. Bagnaia spent the next couple of laps trying to pass Luca Marini, eventually passing him on lap 10.
Alex Marquez crashed out of 3rd place on lap 13, promoting Bagnaia to 3rd behind Martin and Binder. Lap 18 saw a battle between VR46 teammates Bezzecchi and Marini, with Marini managing to hold Bezzecchi off until the final turn when Bezzecchi finally made 4th his own.
There was a very brief change of leader on lap 20 as Binder’s hard work paid off and he passed Martin, but Martin passed him straight back. Binder passed again into turn 1 on the next lap, but he ran wide and Martin was in the lead again. All of their back and forth meant that Bagnaia was now with them at the front of the race.
Binder moved back into the lead on lap 22, and he held it until Martin passed him again on lap 25, with Bagnaia passing Binder soon after, and attempting to pass Martin around the outside. That move – which if he’d pulled off would have been amazing – saw him drop back behind Binder.
Martin held on through a tense last lap to take the win ahead of Binder and Bagnaia, with Bezzecchi, Aleix, Quartararo, Marc, Marini, Di Giannantonio, and Zarco rounding out the top 10. There was late drama though for Binder as he was handed a one place penalty for exceeding track limits on the final lap, promoting Bagnaia to 2nd place.
Jorge Martin was so delighted with his win that he smashed the screen on his bike as he celebrated on his in-lap, having further closed the gap to Bagnaia in the championship to just 13 points with 3 rounds – and 111 points – remaining.
Martin described the race as the best one of his career, while Binder admitted that while its disappointing to have lost a position for a last lap track limits infringement, he was “going for win or bust” when he lost the front which sent him out onto the green!
Following the race, Aleix Espargaro was also demoted – he was handed a 3 second penalty for a second tyre pressure offence, dropping him from 5th to 8th. Aleix is the first rider to have breached the rule twice and receive a punishment, while Pol Espargaro, Marc Marquez, and Jorge Martin were added to the list of riders on a warning for a first offence this weekend.
This could be crucial for Martin – he can’t afford to be losing places due to tyre pressure infringements as he battles with Bagnaia for the title…
The riders (and their teams) now have a weekend off before action resumes at Sepang in Malayasia for the first race of the triple-header that will end the season.