#ThaiGP Buriram, qualifying roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
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).
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.
Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) will start the PTT Thailand Grand Prix from his maiden pole position as the Italian pulled off a perfect final assault in Q2, pulling a tenth clear of the pack to become the 10th different polesitter since the opening race in Qatar – a record in a single Moto3™ season, equalling 2016. He’s also the first rookie to start from pole in the class since Joan Mir at the 2016 Austrian GP, and will have Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) and Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team) for company on the front row.
After an almighty downpour on Saturday morning, the track had dried out by the time the lightweight class headed out for Q1, with the sun back beating down on Buriram. In that first qualifying session it was Vietti who led the way, the Italian topping the session and joined in Q2 by John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Raul Fernandez (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team) and Filip Salač (Redox PrüstelGP). Rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) was one man to lose out, a crash for the Aragon podium finisher seeing him end Q1 in tenth.
With the final 18 then back on track for Q2, the fight for pole was well and truly on. After the first runs it was Championship leader Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) who sat on top, but that would all change in the last frantic dash as the timesheets took another shuffle and first Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), then Arenas and then, finally, Vietti blasted to the top.
Behind the maiden polesitter, Ramirez slotted into second and pushed Arenas down to P3 as the two Spaniards complete the front row, with Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) impressing to head the second row as he continues his bounce back from injury. Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) continued his better pace of late to go fifth fastest, with Canet pushed down to the outside of the second row. For the Championship challenger, however, it remains an impressive result as Canet missed the first Thai Grand Prix last year due to injury.
Friday’s fastest man, Andrea Migno (Mugen Race) heads up the third row ahead of Rodrigo, with Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) team taking ninth. Championship leader Dalla Porta was tenth quickest and will want to make some forward progress on race day, joined on the fourth row by Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46), who took his maiden podium at Buriram last year.
John McPhee (Petronas Yamaha SRT) took P13, just ahead of Raul Fernandez and Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race). The two riders who were 14th and 15th in Q2, Filip Salač and teammate Jakub Kornfeil, both serve grid penalties and will start 27th and 25th respectively.
Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) is another rider who was in Q2 with a penalty to serve and he’ll be penultimate on the grid, with only Riccardo Rossi (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) behind him after the Italian was also given a back of the grid start. Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) takes his six-place grid penalty given at Aragon and starts 26th.