(28/09/22) The MotoGP title contenders and their crew are in Thailand for this weekend’s OR Thailand Grand Prix in Buriram (บุรีรัมย์).
The gaps remain fairly tight despite the drama in Motegi, Japan, but with the rounds counting down fast the pressure is on.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) is looking for a lot more than eighth, and at a track where the second half of the lap should certainly suit a little more, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) will be looking for a drama-free weekend after losing the chance to capitalise in Japan, and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) will have one thing on his mind: redemption.
Eighteen points is now much more significant there are only 100 left in play, and Quartararo will hope good memories of Buriram (บุรีรัมย์) can replay this weekend as he aims to get back on the podium and start from the front row – with the Frenchman finding overtaking close to the limit.
Izan Guevara learning Muay Thai ahead of the OR Thailand Grand Prix in Buriram (บุรีรัมย์)
For Aleix Espargaro the frustration was also palpable, but for different reasons. The Aprilia rider had a solid race and his pace was good, too – he just had to start from pit lane after his first bike was left in fuel saving mode.
Teammate Maverick Viñales likewise left Japan with less than he’d hoped for, and he said it was the tire choice that hampered a podium charge.
Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP) could be another to watch. It was a middling weekend at Motegi and he only lost a point to Quartararo, but with the biggest deficit to make up of the riders who remain more than simply mathematical challengers for the crown, it wasn’t enough – and Buriram will need to be much more to keep the ‘Beast’ in with a shot.
With Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) taking a podium too, it wasn’t just being Jack Miller that was the key to solid points in Japan, so Bastianini and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) will want to hit back at Buriram.
For KTM, Japan definitely did taste sweet. Both Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machines finished in the top five – only Ducati managed the same or better – and Brad Binder took a second dry weather podium of the season. After rain in qualifying saw the South African boss it on Saturday, a front row start – his first in the premier class – certainly helped the cause, but teammate Miguel Oliveira was a little further back and also managed his Sunday charge.
There was, of course, one huge headline in Japan, aside from the title contenders and the actual winner of the Grand Prix: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). His pole position on Saturday saw him back on top for the first time in 1071 days, and the number 93 was no slouch on race day either. Motegi is a tough track, physically, so a fourth place is another sign of the soft Jaws music starting to creep back in from the eight-time World Champion. Buriram is another he’s ruled, and although rain in qualifying at Motegi saw him able to play his dice to perfection, we can likely expect him to feature highly on the grid in Thailand too – and maybe take another step on Sunday.
With a final corner set up to deliver a showdown, Buriram promises much as the final race of the triple header.
MotoGP Championship: Top 5
1 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – Yamaha – 219 2 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 201 3 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – 194 4 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – Ducati – 170 5 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 159
Before they fight it out on the track, a few riders got a taste of Muay Thai.
Home heroes Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Keminth Kubo (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) were joined at the special event by Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP), Albert Arenas (Inde GASGAS Aspar) and Moto3 Championship leader Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) to try out the world famous discipline.