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MotoGP 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... PTT Thailand Grand Prix, Qualifying roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3

MotoGP

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.

Moto2

Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) earned his second pole position of the season at the PTT Thailand Grand Prix after laying down a 1:36.374 early in the session to eventually take Saturday honours by 0.026 seconds from second place Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). The front row is incredibly tight, with third place Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) also threatening pole as he ended qualifying just 0.034 in arrears.

Baldassarri was able to set his fastest lap on his third flying lap as the intermediate class got down to business in Buriram and it proved unbeatable, but both Marquez and Marini were on the prowl as the session entered its latter stages. First, it was the Italian who threatened his fellow countryman, missing out by less than half a tenth on the line before Marquez put in his personal best time to push Marini down to third. The duo narrowly missed out on pole, but it was a welcome return to the front row for both riders – Brno was the last time for Marquez and Marini. Meanwhile, Baldassarri lands his first top three since Le Mans and his first pole since Mugello.

Despite a late crash in qualifying, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) was able to hold on to P4 and the Italian is joined on the second row by the two title contenders – Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46). The former was another rider to set his best time at the beginning of qualifying, finishing just 0.002 behind Pasini in P5, with Championship leader Bagnaia jumping up to sixth from eighth on his last lap – another tiny 0.002 in arrears.

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), winner last time out in Aragon, qualifies seventh ahead of FP3 leader Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up), who will go in search of his third podium of the season from P8 after showing good pace throughout the weekend. Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) took his best qualifying in ninth and Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) completed a top ten covered by 0.315 seconds.

So it’s brilliant Baldassarri who will lead the intermediate class off the line as they go racing in Buriram for the first time, but it’s looking almost impossible to predict who will triumph in Thailand. It’s another important race for the Moto2™ Championship and with Bagnaia and Oliveira starting alongside each other, expect there to be fireworks…the lights go out at 12:20 local time (GMT +7).

Moto3

Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) took pole position at the PTT Thailand Grand Prix after blitzing the final lap dash, going 0.462 faster than second place Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) to take his second career pole. The first? That came at the similar layout of the Red Bull Ring in Austria, where the Italian went on to take the win. For Masia, meanwhile, it’s a second consecutive P2 in qualifying as the Spaniard just pushed Kazuki Masaki (RBA BOE Skull Rider) down to third late on. Nevertheless, it’s a milestone for the Japanese rider as he takes his first front row start.

It all went down to a final lap dash at Chang International Circuit, and there was drama at the final corner on that lap as frontrunner Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) crashed out and collected wildcard Somkiat Chantra (AP Honda Racing Thailand). But that wasn’t even the biggest headline of the session, with that written courtesy of some fitness troubles for Championship leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3).

The Spaniard didn’t set the timesheets alight on Friday but was feeling fit after his injury struggles a few races ago. That changed by Saturday, however, as Martin suffered a problem with a nerve in his left arm, causing him trouble opening and closing his left hand. Determined to race on despite the difficulties, the Del Conca Gresini rider headed out in qualifying for some damage control and will start P13.

Ahead of him it’s Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) in fourth and only 0.004 off the front row, with Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) completing the top five. Just behind the two Italians it was a positive session for Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as he had his best ever qualifying in P6, with Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) 0.016 in arrears for seventh. Bastianini, despite his final corner crash, took P8.

Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) complete the top ten, with Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) in P11 after setting the early pace – something he also did in FP2. Rookie Vicente Perez (Reale Avintia Academy 77) took 12th to impress.

The stage is set for what promises to be another spectacular lightweight class race on Sunday. Can Bezzecchi claw back points on Martin? Or can the Spaniard make up some ground? Tune in at 11:00 local time (GMT +7) to find out.