After a nail-bitiing Grand Prix race at Phillip Island on Saturday, followed by the disappointment of a cancelled clash on Sunday, MotoGP now lands at a sometimes equally dramatic Buriram for the OR Thailand Grand Prix – with the gap between leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and closest chaser Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) now back out to 27 points.
Bagnaia now arguably has that momentum back, despite visiting Q1 in both Indonesia and Australia. The torrential conditions in Japan, his stunning win at Mandalika and then that impressive charge to second last time out have required speed, but they’ve also required some nerves of steel. With his back against the wall, the reigning Champion hasn’t faltered – and he’s still had the guts to gets his elbows out and make split second decisions like that wonderful dive up the inside to take second at Phillip Island.
“I’m happy to be back here in Thailand, where the warmth and passion of the public are always incredible. After Japan, Indonesia and Australia, tracks where we also struggled last year, now it’s nice to be back racing on circuits where we were usually fast. Last year, we raced in difficult rain conditions, and we were competitive, finishing third on the podium. The weather will be uncertain again this year, but I am confident that I can do well in all conditions. I can’t wait to get on track in Buriram!”
Martin, for his part, has put plenty on the line too. In Japan his wet weather masterclass was exactly that, and at Mandalika that charge at the front required him to get close to the limit. Unfortunately, he also went over it. Then, in Australia, he made that rear tyre gamble and was just tenths away from it paying off… but it didn’t. Did he need to gamble, starting from a pole position that saw him four tenths clear? Or is his sheer speed – and the fact he’s actually willing to make that bet – his biggest strength that will see his charge continue?
Meanwhile, Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) isn’t out of it but it’s now a 73 points deficit between Bezz and championship leader Bagnaia. He’ll want to stake his claim on that fight at the front once more as he recovers from that collarbone surgery, and be the one to take that first Ducati win here. Buriram stands alone as the only venue on the calendar where the Borgo Panigale factory hasn’t won.
“Last GP of three coming soon on a track where last year I was very fast with my first pole position in MotoGP. I then struggled in the race, it was the first time in the wet for me, but overall the sensations were positive. I can’t wait to get back on track, my shoulder is better, I’m trying to rest and recover again in these days to be as ready as possible. It will be a challenging GP, the temperatures here are tough, but the weather also seems uncertain for this week.”
Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) arrives as a MotoGP race winner now though after that stunning charge to glory on the Island, and now the mission is simple: do it again.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP), meanwhile, is on an awesome run of form and now has that first premier class podium, and team-mate Alex Marquez will hope to be a little more race ready as his recovery from injury continues.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) too, and Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) is looking for more as the number 23 continues to try and find his feet in red.
“I’m happy to be here, I like the Buriram track a lot and I’ve always been fast here. This year, in addition to the temperatures, the weather could also reserve surprises, at least if you check the weather forecasts. Let’s see what will happen, last year here I was competitive in both conditions. We are working hard to continue on the wave of this positive trend of the recent weeks.”
“I’m happy to be back racing in Thailand! This will be my second time on the Chang International Circuit on a MotoGP bike. Unlike 2022, I hope the weather conditions will be better during the race. Last year was very difficult because of the heavy rain, but I still got a good sixth place. The goal will be to try to be fast from the start and get a good position in qualifying. In Australia, I had struggled a bit in the first few laps of the race, whereas I was faster in the second half. Together with my team, we will work to be as ready as possible for the Sprint and the GP on Sunday“.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will likely have something to say about that. Binder came very close at Phillip Island to taking the podium that will see him become the South African with the most premier class rostrum finishes, and he did it from his best qualifying in the class too as he split the top two contenders on the front row. Team-mate Jack Miller also had some serious speed on home turf and will want to find more of that.
It was a big disappointment for both Augusto Fernandez and Pol Espargaro not to be able to sprint in front of Aussies on Sunday, especially after their average Saturday’s results. Rookie Augusto Fernandez had made quite an impressive start to his Australian GP campaign as he was second of FP1 on Friday morning, and did not finish far from the direct Q2 places in the Practice. He had shown decent speed all weekend, but unfortunately he crashed in the race, and with the sprint cancelled, he did not get another chance to make things right. For that reason, the GASGAS Tech3 rider is heading to Thailand extra motivated to get back to work and try bringing back to his team a decent result before going home for a well-deserved week of rest. On his side, Pol Espargaro got himself an eleventh place on the grid in Phillip Island, after claiming P5 in Practice, and had high hopes for the race, but unfortunately, a wrong tyre decision in a tricky race saw him going through a big tyre drop, and he finished in P18.
“In the last two races in Mandalika and Phillip Island, we really got closer to the fast guys and improved our speed in general. The crash in Australia was a huge disappointment for my team and myself, so I am really looking forward to getting back on the bike, starting work again with my crew, and trying to have a great weekend in Thailand.”
“I don’t really know what to expect for the Thai GP. Again, the weather will play a major role in our weekend’s plan. I hope that it will not be as hot as in India, but normally we should be good and be able to enjoy this last round of October, and get a good result with the team.”
After his stunning pace on Friday too, Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) is looking to bounce back. Top Gun got sent wide early doors Down Under and couldn’t make up too much distance after threatening to be a real feature in the front group. Team-mate Aleix Espargaro is also looking to regroup and put his best foot forward
Miguel Oliveira, winner last year at Buriram in a wet weather classic, will want to stamp some authority back on team-mate Raul Fernandez, and both want a lot more than the outskirts of the top ten.
“Buriram, Thailand is going to be a very interesting round, completely different from Australia in terms of conditions, as it should be much hotter. We know we have hard breaking points, which we should improve on our bike. So it’s another chance to learn and to get the maximum for our CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team.”
“Thailand will be very interesting for me. We did a mistake in Phillip Island during the race, but anyway, our pace, my feeling with the bike was really good. I don’t want to express any expectations. I only want to follow my line, try to be competitive and try to have fun on the bike and to show that we can be together with all the other Aprilia riders. I want to enjoy, relax and try to do my maximum. If I am able to do this, we will have a really good weekend.”
The same is true at Honda. After a podium at Motegi, some bombshells before Mandalika and then two crashes followed by a tougher Phillip Island, eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) will definitely want to restart that turnaround. Team-mate Joan Mir has had a tougher time of it again since his impressive Indian GP too.
“From Australia to Thailand, I am not sure there is a bigger change in temperature on the calendar. It was a complicated weekend for a number of reasons in Australia, so let’s now focus on the race we have in front of us. Buriram has been a good circuit to us in the past, I won the 2019 title there and we took fifth there last year as well. Of course things are always changing in MotoGP and nothing is certain, as always we arrive and see what’s possible – then work from there.”
“We arrive at the last of three intense races in a row, but our focus and determination is exactly the same. Last weekend was complicated, but the Honda has been strong here in Thailand in the past so let’s see what is possible this coming weekend. Buriram is a really different track compared to Phillip Island, also the weather looks a little bit warmer! As such, it will be important to adapt the bike early and well.”
LCR Honda Idemitsu has some rebuilding to do with Takaaki Nakagami after a very tough Phillip Island and in Thailand they are down to one man Following the persistent pain sustained in his right leg and after visiting the doctors last weekend in Australia, Alex Rins flew straight to Madrid to consult his medical staff. They did some medical checks to assess the leg and analyze the cause of the pain. The tests revealed a small hernia near the healing fibula area, probably causing the extra pain he is feeling. Rins will undergo a little surgery on Thursday to improve the healing process. Due to the shortness of time between the Grand Prix of Australia and Thailand, LCR won’t substitute him this weekend in Buriram.
Finally, more is definitely required for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP as well. Many expected Phillip Island could be kinder for the Iwata marque but it was a tough one, with both Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli down the order in qualifying and the race. The Frenchman had a big upper hand in speed in qualifying, but both will want to move forward. With warmer temperatures at Buriram and a new venue without that long, long straight off that final corner, the OR Thailand Grand Prix could prove a happier hunting ground.
“We had a difficult weekend at Phillip Island, so we know we need to work. We hope for better luck with the weather. Last year‘s Race at the Chang circuit didn‘t go as planned, but overall I really like this track. For sure, we will give our 100 per cent again to get back towards the front.”
“The abrupt end to the Australian GP was a pity, but it was not unexpected. We hope that the Thai round will be a more ’normal‘ race weekend, so we can go through our work schedule as usual. We have a lot to improve on compared to last week, and Buriram might be the place to do it. This is a circuit that I like, and it suits my riding style, so let‘s see what happens.”
MotoGP Championship Points
56 points in it with 100 left to play for – that’s how things stand in the 2023 Moto2 title race after a drama-filled Australian GP saw World Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) crash on the sighting lap, finish P9, and his main rival Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) take a commanding victory.
However, having not reached 2/3 distance, only half points were awarded at Phillip Island. That means heading into the Thai GP showdown, 280.5 points head 224.5 – the favour firmly in Acosta’s corner. With four races remaining, 100 points remain on the table, meaning Acosta needs to leave Buriram with 75 points in hand over Arbolino if he’s to wrap up the Championship.
The star of the show won’t be either of our top two riders in the Championship this weekend though, at the circuit at least. Japanese GP winner Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) lands on home turf placed fifth in the overall championship standings, as the Thai star gets set for a hero’s welcome at the circuit he stuck his machine on pole position at in 2022.
Moto2 Championship Points
VD GOORBERGH Zonta
KELLY Sean Dylan
DALLA PORTA Lorenzo
After a tougher race in tough conditions at Phillip Island, Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) is now only four-points clear at the top once again, with Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Intact GP) closing in with that second place in Australia.
Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has also closed in, back to 29 points off the top, with that masterclass in the wet gaining him some ground back after a tougher run.
Joel Kelso will be looking to back up his podium form displayed at Phillip Island to strengthen his place in the championship pecking order.
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