MotoGP dazzled a capacity crowd in a first ever visit to Thailand. The Chang International Circuit in Buriram boiled in humidity and high temperatures and the Grand Prix racers responded in kind with a sizzling podium dice that was decided at the flag by just 0.2 seconds.
Marc Marquez placed a finger on the MotoGP championship trophy with his seventh victory of 2018 (and from fourteen rounds) but the margin of success was miniscule over Andrea Dovizioso and a resurgent Maverick Viñales. The Movistar Yamaha rider returned to the box for the first time since Germany in July and for only the fourth time in 2018.
For Maverick Thailand brought some relief from the struggles to make the Yamaha M1 competitive this season and to reach level pegging with Honda and Ducati. 2018 has been a tough term for the 23 year old, who has already admitted that the majority of his work is with one eye on 2019. The MotoGP grid roasted in Buriram but Viñales was able to keep a cooler head.
“I was stronger than I expected in the race,” the Spaniard said. “I got stuck behind Cal and fought a little with Valentino, and after that I felt really good. The bike was working well, so I'm very pleased about that. For sure I'm happy to finish so close to the top, to be on the podium, and to be able to recover nearly one second at the end, all under difficult conditions in which we used to suffer. I'm honestly very pleased, because the work we've done this weekend was done in a good way. It was hot and slippery, but we were still there, so we have to take this race in Thailand as an example and work even harder for the next race.”
Only 1.5 seconds further back was Valentino Rossi, and although the icon of the sport missed out on silverware at Buriram he did have the satisfaction of seeing VR46 Academy recruits fill podium spots in other classes. In Moto3 SKY Racing Team VR46’s Dennis Foggia made the top three for the first time in his career with third place.
The Moto2 division was even more prolific for the SKY crew. Pecco Bagnaia ruled the category for the seventh occasion in ‘18 and was just ahead of flying teammate Luca Marini who pushed his way up to second place. Bagnaia increased his gap at the peak of the point table to 28 from closest pursuer Miguel Oliveira.
“I'm really happy: I knew that in the first laps, with new tyre, I would have struggled a bit, but I kept calm and I tried to be constant,” Pecco offered-up. “In this kind of conditions, with high temperatures, I can be even more competitive, especially with used tyres. I was hoping to go to Japan with 25 points to manage but Luca gave me a great present today, overtaking Miguel in the last lap.”
“A really difficult race and a great final,” Luca said. “We have to continue in this direction, trying to help Pecco as much as possible.”
MotoGP continues to test the zips on the travel cases. A free weekend will allow most to fly home to Europe before the gruelling triple of Japan, Australia and Malaysia in back to back weeks and before the end of October.