Photos by Repsol Honda and MotoGP.com
Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez made a step closer to clinching his 5th premier class title today by clinching his 42nd victory in the segment at Chang International Circuit in Buriram.
It was Marquez, who rides for Repsol Honda, who got the holeshot from pole as the lights went out, with Factory Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi tucked in behind his rival from P2 on the grid. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow launched well from P5 to slot into 3rd, before Ducati Corse’s Andrea Dovizioso re-took P3 into Turn 3 as the front 3 riders in qualifying held station, spearheading the field into a high-speed game of chess at the Chang International Circuit.
Everyone held position before Rossi got past Marquez on lap 4 on the run down to Turn 3, ‘The Doctor’ back up the sharp end and looking strong to control the pace. With tyre life a major factor in the soaring Thailand temperatures, no one wanted to force their hand. That was until lap 11 when Rossi couldn’t get his M1 firing off the first corner, with the Ducati of Dovizioso and the Honda of Marquez getting past the nine-time World Champion – the number 04 now the man in charge of controlling the 200mph freight train.
With lap times fluctuating and a front group of eight now packed together, from Monster Tech3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco to Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Team Suzuki’s Alex Rins up to the tailpipes of Maverick Viñales in 5th, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to pull the pin and with 11 laps to go, Dovizioso upped the pace. Marquez and Rossi tagged along, with 4th place Crutchlow slipping back down the order from P4 to P7.
The lap times then slowed again as Viñales bridged the gap to the leading trio, with Pedrosa then crashing at Turn 5 with 8 laps remaining as he and Zarco got a whiff of a potential podium, the duo closing down the leaders by half a second on the previous lap. The race then entered a critical stage and it was Dovizioso and Marquez who started to fight it out for the lead, with Rossi starting to lose touch as teammate Viñales moved through to get a front-row seat of another Ducati vs Honda battle. With 4 laps to go, Marquez played his first hand, braking deep into Turn 3 in an attempted pass. But he ran wide to allow Dovizioso to slice back through.
This painted the picture for a barnstorming final 3 laps in Buriram. On the same lap, Marquez sliced his way through at Turn 8, but Dovizioso snapped straight back at Turn 9. It was déjà vu a lap later as the Repsol Honda grabbed the lead into Turn 8, no way through for the Ducati this time at Turn 9, but a pass into Turn 12 was made to stick heading onto the last lap. The chosen corner for a Marquez assault was Turn 5 – a great move from the six-time World Champion with Dovizioso unable to squeeze back under at Turn 6. This set the duo up for another final corner epic between them. Dovizioso got the run off Turn 11 to brake late into the final corner to get alongside Marquez, but the Desmosedici couldn’t quite drop its anchors quick enough – Marquez cutting back underneath the Italian to win the race to the line, with Viñales just 0.270 away from the win in 3rd!
Rossi crossed the line 4th in what was a hugely promising weekend for Yamaha, with fellow M1 and leading Independent Team rider Zarco getting the better of Rins – P5 and P6 respectively for the duo. Crutchlow ended the race seventh, finishing 0.171 ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) in eighth, with the two Alma Pramac Racing riders completing the top ten – P9 for Danilo Petrucci, P10 for Jack Miller.
Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) couldn’t repeat his Aragon heroics in Thailand – P11 for the Italian after a bad start, with Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) taking top rookie honours that sees the Malaysian return to form in P12 – his best finish since Le Mans. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro crossed the line P13, the only rider to not run the hard rear tyre in the race, with Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the points in P14 and P15 respectively.
Takaaki Nakagami (of LCR Honda Idemitsu crashed at the final corner on lap 3 – rider ok. A 7th win of the season draws Marquez level with Jorge Lorenzo of Ducati Team on 68 Grand Prix wins, while it also gives him a magnificent chance to wrap the title up at Honda’s home round – Motegi.