Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) has qualified on pole for the PTT Thailand Grand Prix, pulling out all the stops to head the grid for the fifth time this season as the man second overall, Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up), had a tough Saturday at the office outside the top 20. Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) was second fastest as his impressive weekend continued, with reigning Moto3™ World Champion Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) taking third for his first front row start in his rookie season in the intermediate class.
Saturday started with torrential conditions, dried out and then threatened again for Moto2™. Under cloudier skies, Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) set a new lap record in Q1 to head fellow Q2 graduates Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP), but more rain came down and put a spanner in the works for one title challenger.
Second in the Championship, Navarro was one of three riders who slid out, along with Mattia Pasini (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) and Joe Roberts (American Racing KTM), and although all riders were up and ok, it put a dent in their Saturday. Navarro will now start the PTT Thailand Grand Prix from outside the top 20 and will have his work cut out on Sunday.
Once into Q2 and the track dry again, Marquez put himself a cut above mid-session and wasn’t to be caught, despite having earlier crashed in FP3. Nagashima was within a tenth of the man leading the charge for the crown by the time the flag went out, however, and Martin, after a tougher rookie season so far, put in a stellar performance to take third and only a tenth and a half off the man who’s ruled the class this season.
Meanwhile on the second row, he may have been the fastest on Friday but Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) had to settle for fourth on the grid, although he remains in a good position to try and repeat his 2018 rostrum finish at the track. Remy Gardner made it both ONEXOX TKKR SAG teammates inside the top five in P5, with title contender Augusto Fernandez (FlexBox HP 40) firing in a late lap to complete the second row.
Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) heads up Row 3, the Spaniard getting the better of Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) in eighth as the Swiss veteran prepares for his first Moto2™ race at Chang International Circuit, having been in the premier class last season. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) took P9. with Iker Lecuona (American Racing KTM) completing the top ten.
Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) was P11 ahead of Aragon winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who had a tough day at the office, with home hero Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) losing ground on Saturday afternoon. Second quickest on Day 1, the Thai rider will line up in P13 – but expect a serious charge from him.
Marcel Schrötter and Andrea Locatelli complete the fastest fifteen in qualifying, ahead of Lowes, Bezzecchi and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up), who is having a difficult Thai GP so far.
That can still all change on Sunday, however, so tune in for the intermediate class race at 12:20 (GMT +7), where Marquez will be pushing to extend his lead, Navarro will be on the fight back and Chantra will be on an absolute charge on home turf.
1 – Alex Marquez (SPA – Kalex) 1’35.297
2 – Tetsuta Nagashima (JPN – Kalex) +0.095
3 – Jorge Martin (SPA – KTM) +0.151
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