Despite a crash at the end of Q2 – a real rarity – Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) set a new lap record to qualify on pole position for the PTT Thailand Grand Prix, taking pole for the fourth time in his rookie season and becoming the youngest to do so. He also equals Jorge Lorenzo (2008) and Dani Pedrosa (2006) on number of rookie poles, with only Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) ahead of the three. Marquez was another crasher in Q2 in Thailand, however, and starts third, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) splitting the two record breakers to take second on the grid and make it a Yamaha 1-2.
After a rain-soaked morning, it was a dry afternoon but the weather had left Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) marooned in Q1 after a tougher Friday and the Italian was on a mission to move through. That he did, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) joining the Mugello winner in the fight for pole.
That fight began with a Marquez vs Viñales vs Quartararo shootout and ultimately, that’s the way it would remain – although two of them would later improve. Early drama came from a crash for Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) at Turn 5, ‘The Doctor’ heading back to the pits for his other machine as the clock ticked down. And Viñales stayed out later than many, the Spaniard enjoying the track pretty much to himself for a couple of laps.
Then it was showtime and the final runs. Quartararo was on top and the rookie was soon back into the red challenging his own new record, but Marquez was on a charge too. As the clock ticked down though, the reining Champion couldn’t do anything about the rookie ahead of him as Quartararo did lower his time once again, and then drama hit for the number 93. He suffered another crash and suddenly slid out of the fight, pole position out of reach on the weekend where he has his first Championship point.
Despite the crash for his key rival, Quartararo was still pushing, and the Frenchman would then end his session in much the same way, although he was similarly straight up on his feet and ok. That just left Viñales to charge for the front and the Misano polesitter did improve, but it was only enough for second as he punted Marquez down a position.
Yamaha’s great weekend at Buriram continued as Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) took fourth to head up the second row, ahead of Petrucci, who put in a stellar performance in Q2 to start as top Ducati. It was close, however, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) just in sixth – and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) not far behind either. ‘DesmoDovi’ starts the pivotal PTT Thailand Grand Prix from seventh on the grid, from where he’ll be hoping to launch through the pack quickly and take the challenge to Marquez. The Spaniard’s only rival for the crown must stop Marquez scoring two more points than him on Sunday is the fight is to roll on to Japan.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had an impressive Saturday to take P8 on the grid and once again get the better of more veteran teammate Alex Rins, with Rins down in tenth and Valentino Rossi splitting the two Hamamatsu factory machines. The number 46 is another who will be looking for more on Sunday, not able to recover much ground on his second bike after the crash.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took P11 and only completed one run in Q2 to let his injured wrist have a bit of a break, although he’s positive about going the distance on Sunday. Brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took P12 to make it all six manufacturers in Q2.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was one surprise name to miss out, and the Brit starts 13th just ahead of teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu).
After a serious show of pace from the likes of Quartararo and Viñales on Saturday, Marquez has his work cut out to take the crown on race day in Thailand. Can he do it? Dovizioso will be one a charge to make sure he doesn’t, so tune in for the PTT Thailand Grand Prix from 14:00 (GMT +7) on the 6th October.
1 – Fabio Quartararo* (FRA – Yamaha) 1’29.719
2 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) +0.106
3 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) +0.212
*Independent Team rider
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