Luckily for the intermediate class show, when one man dominates a race, it’s not the same man from race to race. This time it was Luca Marini’s time to shine in Thailand and not just because of the heat, the Italian riding a faultless race that allowed him to celebrate long before the finish line. And it was a year’s worth of celebrations, the young Italian getting his first win of the season and in quite a while. Brad Binder stalked Iker Lecuona all race long and only found a way past at the final corner to secure second, but the Spaniard was happy enough to get his first dry podium, even if it came with a third place trophy.
Poleman Alex Marquez didn’t have the easiest of races and trouble started early, when Tetsuta Nagashima found the inside into turn one. However, Marquez was back ahead by turn two, with fellow front row starter Jorge Martin getting demoted by the more experienced trio of Marini, Remy Gardner and Augusto Fernandez. Marini went one better and was pursuing Marquez by lap two, finding a way past the Spaniard one lap later. Nagashima had dropped into the eager claws of Lecuona, Gardner and Binder, even Martin finding a way past the Japanese rider. Fernandez was still with the chasing pack but an early mistake had dropped him to seventh, while Jorge Navarro, having started 21st, was approaching the top 15.
By lap four, Marini and Marquez had stretched out a bit of a gap, but Lecuona was in a big rush to reduce the one second gap to half of that one lap later – so eager that he was dropping the sizeable group led by Binder and extending all the way down to Enea Bastianini in 12th place. While all the action was amongst that pack, Marini was making a run for it at the front and Marquez fell one second back, under assault from compatriot Lecuona. Another second back, Binder was just about daring to dream of a podium, detaching himself from Fernandez and the rest of the elite pack including Martin, Gardner, Xavi Vierge, Lorenzo Baldassarri and Tom Luthi. However, that group lost its allure by lap nine, Luthi making a mistake that dropped him to the next group down the road, Baldassarri dropping it at turn 12 and Gardner just losing touch with the men ahead.
Marini started lap ten with a two second advantage, while Lecuona was having a look at Marquez but not yet finding a way past. The Spaniards soon had another headache in the shape of Binder, who tagged along for the podium fight, with Fernandez just half a second back and Martin still close enough for consideration. Perhaps more sensible than their lightweight class colleagues, the chasers settled for the next few laps, forming a compact group with Marquez ahead of Lecuona, Binder and Fernandez.
At the halfway point of the race, Marini’s gap was a solid two seconds and Marquez was still awaiting a serious attack from his rivals. It came at turn 12 with 11 laps left from Lecuona but it was more of a warning than a done deal, Marquez finding a way past at turn one. The next warning came at turn 6 and it encouraged Binder to join the exchanges, if only briefly. The shenanigans allowed Marini to extend his lead to three seconds, while Marquez was busy managing a couple of his title rivals in the battle for the final podium spot. Binder was the most eager to demote the Spaniard and got it done with 8 laps left but the tight four-man podium battle continued. If Fernandez was nearly straddling Marquez for a few extra points in the championship, there were no such hopes for Navarro, who was still struggling to hold onto a top 15 place. Fernandez’s first aggressive attack came with five laps to go but Marquez was not keen and replied with a block pass at the final corner. Fernandez was right back at him in turn three, all this allowing Lecuona and Binder some breathing room – but not too much as Binder was lining up his own assault on the Spaniard ahead.
The final three laps promised a show for the podium, if not for the win as Marini was nearly four seconds ahead, but Binder was glued to Lecuona’s tail, just like Marquez was to Fernandez’s another seven tenths back. Although he could have eased up for the sake of the championship, Marquez posted red hot sectors on the penultimate lap and a similarly speedy Fernandez had bridged the gap to Lecuona and Binder – turning the podium battle into a foursome once again. It all came down to the final corner, where Binder got the better drive and successfully kept ahead of Lecuona, who just about fended off Fernandez by four hundredths of a second. Marquez settled for fifth but probably finding some consolation in Navarro not scoring any points. Martin came home in a lonely sixth, followed by Luthi and Bulega. Somkiat Chantra rode a solid race and got his best finish in Moto2 in front of a delighted home crowd – ninth ahead of Marco Bezzecchi.
Perhaps disappointed not to get more out of a pole position start, Marquez extends his championship lead to 40 points and Fernandez becomes his main threat once again. Navarro drops from second to fifth in the standings, Binder and Luthi brushing past – 44 and 46 points down on the leader.
|16||77||Dominique AEGERTER||MV Agusta||+18.707|
|17||9||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||+20.985|
|18||21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||+23.103|
|24||20||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA||Kalex||+1'18.435|
|25||7||Lorenzo BALDASSARRI||Kalex||1 Lap|
|18||Xavi CARDELUS||KTM||1 Lap|
|22||Sam LOWES||Kalex||7 Laps|
|54||Mattia PASINI||Kalex||11 Laps|
|3||Lukas TULOVIC||KTM||12 Laps|
|97||Xavi VIERGE||Kalex||14 Laps|
|62||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||19 Laps|
|16||Joe ROBERTS||KTM||22 Laps|