Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) claimed a magnificent seventh win of 2018 at the PTT Thailand Grand Prix to claim the 800th Italian Grand Prix win, finishing ahead of teammate Luca Marini by 1.5 seconds after the latter got the better of Bagnaia’s title rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) on the final lap. Teamwork makes the dream work in terms of the standings.
In Thailand, temperatures were soaring and so was the battle on track between the Moto2™ Championship protagonists, who were joined at the front by Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in a proper dogfight. Uncharacteristically though, Bagnaia ran wide at Turn 12 on a couple of occasions and almost collected the rear of Oliveira as the trio ran in close into the tricky Turn 3, before Binder then lost control under braking into Turn 5, narrowly avoiding his teammate to drop to P3…tensions were running fairly high on circuit.
Bagnaia, however, had composed himself and started to reel in Oliveira after the Portuguese rider had been able to grab a half-second lead, and the Italian struck for P1 with 13 laps to go. It was then a case of the Italian finding his rhythm out front, slamming home two consecutive fastest laps to stretch the gap to over a second with 10 laps to go.
The lead slowly edged out to 1.5 seconds with four laps to go, and Marini was starting to look menacing in P4. Closing down Binder as he eyed his first podium finish since Austria, the Italian clawed the gap down to nothing with three to go and then made his move into Turn 12. The number 10 then locked his radar on Oliveira heading into the last lap.
Turn 3 saw the Portuguese rider run wide and Marini swept through, holding station to play the perfect wingman to teammate Bagnaia as the latter crossed the line to take his seventh win of the season. The team gained in their Championship and Bagnaia is now 28 points clear heading into the final four races of the year.
Binder eventually crossed the line fourth to finish just off the podium in another solid ride for the South African, with Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up) finishing in a somewhat lonely fifth place after an early battle with Marini. After looking strong across Free Practice and qualifying, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) picked up a P6 in Thailand, with Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) claiming his first top ten since Austria in P7. Eighth was Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) in a career-best finish for the Japanese rider before he heads to his home GP at Motegi, with Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) completing the top ten at the Chang International Circuit.
Some famous names are missing from that list and it was a race of attrition for a few riders. There was first lap drama with Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP 40) going down at Turn 3 after Mir lost the front, leaving Schrötter and Fernandez with nowhere to go, and pole man Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) crashed out of contention at Turn 1. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) had lost the front heading into Turn 5 two laps earlier; both pushing to keep tabs on the leading trio.
After a masterful ride, Bagnaia now takes charge of the intermediate class title race. However, with the trio of flyway races next and with Oliveira winning the final three races of 2017, the Championship certainly isn’t done and dusted. On to Japan we go, for more spectacular Moto2™ action in two weeks.
Moto2™ Race Results
1 – Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) KALEX 39’00.009
2 – Luca Marini (ITA) KALEX +1.512
3 – Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM +1.651
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