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Just 0.011 separate the two as the battle heats up in Buriram – with Dovi in hot pursuit
What’s a decade between rivals? Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) made it to premier class pole number 50 at Chang International Circuit as he beat nemesis Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) to P1, and the Spaniard did it almost a decade younger as he continues to rack up the milestones. That wasn’t really the big draw at Buriram, however, with the two split by only 0.011 on the timesheets – and Yamaha making a serious dent in the front positions on the grid. After a difficult period for the Iwata marque, it’s a welcome boost in the Thai heat and sets up a mouthwatering Sunday. Adding to that is a man with serious race pace completing the front row, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) less than a tenth and a half off the battle for pole as he took P3.
The headlines didn’t stop there. They began early as Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) was forced to forfeit his chance to fight for a fourth consecutive pole and another win, with the Spaniard withdrawing from the event following his huge crash in FP2. Then another crash made waves as Marquez fell at the end of FP3 and in doing so lost his chance to move through to Q2…the number 93 made the most of that, however, to make another record and become the first rider to come through Q1 and subsequently take pole.
Just off the tantalising trio on the front row, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) took fourth and is well within striking distance of the win if Yamaha’s form continues on to Sunday, and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) is top Independent Team rider once again in P5. The second row is completed by Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), whose improved form at Buriram after a more difficult preseason test at the venue saw him take sixth.
Seventh on the grid is Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), who took his second top eight qualifying since last being on the front row in Jerez. Pedrosa was also fastest at the Thai test, which bodes well for race day. He edged Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) by a tiny margin of 0.013, with Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) completing Row 3 in P9 – just ahead of teammate Jack Miller, who has plenty of home fans who have made the trip up from Australia.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) starts 11th after joining Marquez in graduating from Q1, with Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) completing the Q2 classification in 12th – and just 0.888 separating the top 12 in qualifying.
Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) beat Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) to P13 as they battle over the honour of top rookie, with Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the fastest fifteen on Saturday.
Records, drama and mere thousandths of a second characterised Saturday at Buriram. On Sunday, things heat up even further in the race – with pace a different matter over a long run of laps in the Thai heat. Will Marquez extend his lead as he hones in on the crown? Can Dovizioso make a last ditch effort to still the tide? Or will Yamaha leap back on to the top step in Thailand…
Tune in from 14:00 (GMT +7) local time for the first ever MotoGP™ race at Buriram in the inaugural PTT Thailand Grand Prix.
Marquez makes history in Thailand as the first rider to take pole from Q1; Pedrosa in close seventh
Never one to take the easy route, Marc Marquez today scored the first MotoGP pole ever at the Buriram Circuit, at the same time becoming the first rider to earn pole position from Q1! His umpteenth historic result is also his 50th pole in the Premier class, the 78th in his career.
Marc had to go trough Q1 after suffering a crash at Turn 4 during his final flying lap of FP3, in which he finished just outside the top 10, in P11.
Dani Pedrosa was sixth in FP3, and although he was able to improve in qualifying, he was just 0.039” away from the second row and 0.370” from pole.
Tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Thailand will get underway at 2 p.m. local time, 9 a.m. Central Europe Time.
“It’s fantastic to be on pole, and it seems it’s a record to have done so going trough Q1 but I honestly would have preferred to pass directly to Q2! This morning we were very unlucky because when we fitted the new rear tyre at the end of FP3, we had a little issue and had to quickly swap to the other bike. It wasn’t the same, and I lost the front while I was improving my lap time. Anyway, after that we managed everything in a good way, and in QP1 I was able to ride very well. We’re very happy because a front-row start was our target. Now we have a very important race tomorrow, and a very long one. I’m happy with my race pace but we must wait and see what the conditions are like and where we and our opponents are. On paper, at the moment there are a few riders who should be able to be fast. It will be important to manage the tyres and the physical conditions well. Our target will be the podium.”
Buriram (Thailand), 6th October 2018
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales delighted the Thai fans at the Chang International Circuit with their speed on the second day of the PTT Thailand Grand Prix. After two solid practice sessions the teammates put their head down again in qualifying to score second and fourth position on tomorrow‘s starting grid.
Rossi left pit lane as one of the last riders, along with the majority of the field. Due to the traffic on track his first lap put him in tenth place, but he quickly climbed up to fifth on his next try. With eight minutes remaining he returned to the box.
After a quick stop the Doctor resumed his time attack, and he was in the zone. He set a 1‘30.099s to take provisional pole, but it wasn‘t to last. The Italian was in second position when he had two more tries left. Pushing hard, he was especially strong in sector 3 and 4 but couldn‘t further improve on his fastest time. He held on to second place on the grid for tomorrow‘s race, just 0.011s from pole.
Viñales followed the opposite strategy from his teammate. The Spaniard waited for the light to turn green at the exit of pit lane to make sure he was the very first rider out on track. His benchmark lap, a 1‘30.871s, put him in third place after all riders got in their first flyer.
As the pace picked up the youngster dropped back to sixth place on entering the pits. He changed to a second soft rear tyre but was unable to find the same confidence out on track. Luckily, the Spaniard was on a two-stop strategy and could hurry back to the team to switch to his second bike.
The pressure was on in the final three minutes of the session, however, that‘s when the number 25 rider thrives. He set a fastest first sector and three personal best sectors on his very last attempt and clocked a 1‘30.328s. The lap boosted him to fourth position, 0.240s from first.
Today we made another good step. It was a very strong qualifying from Valentino. He already showed he had an impressive pace here in the free practice sessions, especially in FP4, and he set some really great times, two very low 1’30s laps, during Q2. It’s unfortunate that Maverick didn’t have good confidence on his second tyre, because his speed in all free practice sessions made him also a contender for the front row. Nevertheless, having our riders start the race from second and fourth position is a good result. They have a good pace and both are satisfied with their bike and the tyres, so we are optimistic for tomorrow’s race. We still have some room for improvement and we‘ll try to finalise the set-up for the race in the warm-up. The conditions are quite extreme and tyre management will be fundamental.
I felt good with the bike already from yesterday, but today we did some modifications and we went in the right direction. I’m happy because the bike improved a lot. It looks like, at this track, we can make the tyre work in a good way, so I can ride on the limit. The bike is good and I’m also very happy because in FP4, with the race tyre, I had a good pace. I hope that we can do a good race and fight for the podium.
I thought I could be on the front row, but I made some mistakes on my best lap, especially concerning the front tyre. I should have chosen the hard, but I picked the medium to be safe, but on the hard I’m feeling much better. I’m actually really happy that in FP4, with the used tyre, we made a good improvement. We changed the bike a little and it was better, so I think that maybe tomorrow we can do another step. I feel much better. Improving the small details will make tomorrow’s race a little bit easier and will for sure make us more competitive.
SIXTH ROW FOR ESPARGARÓ, EIGHTH FOR REDDING
The final practice sessions on the Buriram circuit also had the riders and teams working on race settings, with particular attention on tyre wear which promises to be the critical element of the boiling hot Thai weekend. If, on one hand, the hardest compound seems to guarantee more consistency, the performance demonstrated by the soft tyre could allow a more sustained race pace.
The final decisions will be taken in the warm up session tomorrow morning, where Aleix Espargaró will continue assessments, aiming to further improve his feeling with the RS-GP. The Italian bike demonstrated good form on the second part of the track, the more flowing section, whereas it leaves a few tenths behind on the initial section, made up of abrupt accelerations and long straights. Despite his sixteenth spot on the grid, Aleix showed a race pace that places him in the running for the top 10.
For Scott Redding, the biggest difficulties arrived in qualifying. Rather consistent in his practice sessions, the British rider had problems braking when trying to increase his pace for the flying lap. This is a limitation that kept him from moving any farther forward than the eighth row on the starting grid.
“The results are in line with what we expected. We knew that it would not be an easy track for us. Grip and acceleration are our weak points and, given the characteristics of the circuit, we struggle. To be honest, in terms of race pace, we are not far from the top 10. What we have trouble with is pushing on the flying lap because we do not have much margin. We saw that the gaps are rather close and rear tyre choice will be fundamental tomorrow. With the hard compound, you have better duration but lack performance, whereas with the soft tyre you can risk with some doubts on how it will hold up in the race. I think that, in light of our starting position, it makes sense to take the riskier path, managing tyre wear during the race.”
“At the start of qualifying something must have happened with the saddle, because it was particularly slippery and on these bikes, you need grip to be able to ride. We also had some problems in braking. When pushing for the fast lap, the lever had to be adjusted practically on every braking section because the temperatures rise too high. Because of these two problems, I lost the first part of the session and then I was able to improve my time, but it wasn’t enough. I am focusing on the ride. The bike is performing well, but we are simply lacking a few tenths, especially when we try to push to lower the time.”
Andrea Dovizioso to start the Thailand GP at Buriram from the front row after qualifying third. Jorge Lorenzo, injured yesterday, opts to miss the race and will return for the GP of Japan
It will be a front row start for Andrea Dovizioso in the inaugural Thailand Grand Prix, which is being held this weekend at the Buriram circuit. The Ducati Team rider, fastest in both the morning’s FP3 session and FP4 in the afternoon, then went third quickest in the all-important Q2 run with a best time of 1’30.227, just a fraction behind poleman Marquez and Rossi.
Following yesterday’s crash in FP2 his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo on the other hand did not go out on track today. The results of the scan he underwent in Buriram hospital revealed that the Spanish rider, as well as the bruising to his right ankle and his left wrist, also suffered a hairline fracture of the distal radius of his left arm. In agreement with medical staff and his team, Jorge decided not to take part in today’s sessions and tomorrow’s race so as not to incur any further risks and to try and recover with the aim of being 100% fit for the GP of Japan in two weeks’ time.
The Thailand GP, which will be run over a distance of 26 laps, will get underway tomorrow at 09.00 CET (14.00 local time).
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 3rd (1’30.227)
“Qualifying went really well: my goal was to start from the front row and on this type of track that’s never easy. I knew that we were quick enough, but putting in a clean lap when there are many riders out there is always complicated and so I’m satisfied with that. We have worked very well over these last two days: yesterday morning in FP1 I didn’t have a good feeling and instead now we’re amongst the riders with the best pace, even though tomorrow in the race we won’t be able to push that hard because we have to try and manage the tyre wear in the best way.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99)
“After my crash and the results of yesterday’s final tests, I decided in agreement with the team and the doctors to not take part anymore in this weekend’s race at Buriram. The CT scan revealed a hairline fracture in my left wrist and, in view of the condition I was when I arrived and the way I’m feeling now, I think it’s better I don’t race here in Thailand and try and recover as much as possible for the next GP in Japan. I feel really bad for the team but, also in consideration of my situation in the championship, it wouldn’t make sense to take any further risks so I think I’ve made the right decision.”
Zarco and Syahrin to launch Thai GP from third and sixth row
Monster Yamaha Tech3 star Johann Zarco displayed a strong performance in today’s third Free Practice and progressed to ninth on his last lap to clinch a direct Q2 entry at the Chang International Circuit. In Qualifying the fast Frenchman cut off 0.95 seconds from his fastest lap on Friday and ensured a start from the third row for the first ever Thailand Grand Prix at 14.00 local time (9.00 CET) on Sunday.
Likewise Hafizh Syahrin made a huge step in FP3 this this morning, braking the 1:32’ mark to improve by 1.042 seconds compared to the first session on Friday. In Qualifying this afternoon, he lowered his lap time by further 0.330 seconds and eventually found himself in eighth place, missing out on Q2 by only 0.478 seconds. The Malaysian rookie aims to work further towards the race in Warm Up tomorrow morning in order to bring home some important championship points again.
Position: 8th – Time: 1:30.471 – Laps: 8
“P8 is ok. Again, I’m just three tenths from the top guys. It’s super close! Maybe I could do one tenth better in Qualifying, the bike was responding well and an even better lap would have been possible, but it’s always difficult. About the race, it’s a track I like, so I hope I can enjoy. I wish that I can be competitive with used tyres, because that’s our weak point at the moment, but anyway, my feeling here is better than in the last two races. We have to take it easy. With the heat it’s going to be a difficult race, so I want to keep good energy and fight until the end to have a good result.”
LCR Honda CASTROL rider Cal Crutchlow secured a place on the second row of the grid for Sunday’s inaugural Thailand Grand Prix. The Briton performed impressively on another scorching hot day in the Asian kingdom and emerged with fifth place after a hotly-contested Q2 session at the Buriram International Circuit.
Crutchlow – whose RC213V is carrying the famous Castrol green and red livery this weekend – was once again the fastest Honda rider in the morning’s FP3 session as he finished fourth. That ensured he comfortably progressed to Q2 and he was in a front row position with just over a minute of the qualifying session left. However, he lost a couple of spots in the closing moments, but remains happy with the team’s efforts heading into Sunday’s race.
Cal Crutchlow – 5th
(1’30.356 – lap 8 of 8)
“Today was a positive qualifying session. My aim was to get on the front two rows, obviously I would have preferred to be on the front row, but I tried my best. The bike and the team is working well, I think tomorrow is going to be a very long race but we look forward to it. Hopefully we can have a good battle and get a good position”.
“To be starting quite close to the front is always important, especially at a track like this that we don’t know. We’ll need to fight hard, but I think our pace is fast enough for a good result tomorrow.”