There were many plotlines at play ahead of the premier class race, from the poleman dreaming of a first win, to the reigning world champion aiming to, well, keep it that way and fighting a losing battle with his victory-craving demons all throughout, to the lone chaser trying to slow the tide for another couple of weeks. In the end, it came down to who wanted it most under the meltingly hot sun of Buriram and the answer to that question is, in 93% of cases, Marc Marquez. The Honda golden boy donned the golden helmet as he lifted the biggest shiniest trophy at the end of a tense 26 laps, where he once again broke Fabio Quartararo’s heart. The phenomenal rookie is getting ever closer and took the fight to the final turn of the final lap but there was no stealing Marquez’s thunder and the Frenchman begrudgingly settled for second. Maverick Viñales in third was a distant afterthought with the fire of battle far ahead of him.
In a hint of things to come, the drama started early, with Jack Miller getting wheeled off the grid after stalling before the start – one podium contender already out of the game. No drama just yet for poleman Quartararo, who got the holeshot but Marquez was immediately on his tail, despite some brief protests from Viñales. Marquez was already attacking for the lead in turn one but went well wide and allowed the Frenchman back past. Just behind the front row trio, Andrea Dovizioso gave himself a good chance to achieve his goal of halting Marquez, only half a second behind the leaders by lap three. Despite the early hot pace, Franco Morbidelli, Joan Mir, Valentino Rossi and Alex Rins were still in contention at this point, with Danilo Petrucci another second back.
Similarly to Misano, Marquez was keeping quiet behind his Petronas branded nemesis, with Viñales an ever more distant threat. Dovizioso however, either through extreme tyre management or more likely lack of early pace, was losing ground to over a second by lap five. His case wasn’t helped by Quartararo galloping at the front as if he was missing the cut-off for happy hour and Marquez being roped into following his example. That left Viñales two seconds back by lap eight, Dovizioso another two seconds behind the Spaniard but getting slightly closer – mostly due to the Yamaha struggling rather than the Ducati flying.
There was nothing to separate the lead duo in terms of lap time and Marquez kept at a safe half second distance. Vinales and Dovizioso – although two seconds apart – were still posting red sector times, however, it wasn’t making an impression on the leaders’ gap. The Italian soon had Morbidelli on his tail, with Rins finding some pace mid-race. Another second back, baby-faced Mir was having some fun with grandpa’ Rossi in the battle for seventh.
The pace got even hotter as the race progressed, the two lone cowboys ahead the only ones to dip into the 1:30s by lap 12, with Marquez turning up the heat further and getting glued to his rival’s exhaust pipe for the next few laps. Barring a major mistake, the title already looked secure in Marquez’s pocket, with Dovizioso almost eight seconds behind and with Viñales finding some late speed in between the two title contenders.
But Marquez clearly had his eyes set on victory. Quartararo was under pressure at the front but nothing the Frenchman hadn’t dealt with before and he coped admirably once again to take the fight to the final lap. He also made the same mistake as Misano, allowing Marquez to study and stalk until, with four laps remaining, the Spaniard finally showed his intentions at turn one but could not snatch the inside line so regular scheduling resumed.
Quartararo continued to get glimpses of orange wheel rims but started the final lap in the lead – that didn’t last long, Marquez excruciatingly late on the brakes in turn three to become the prey rather than the hunter. Quartararo rode a strong final half of the lap to give it one final try at the last corner but there was no way to hold back a man determined to take the title with the first place trophy in his hands. Viñales almost went unnoticed when he crossed the finish line one second later to claim the final podium spot. Dovizoso’s late fastest sector times proved pointless in stopping the Marquez monsoon and the Italian settled for fourth. Rins was victorious over Morbidelli, with Mir getting the best of Rossi. Petrucci and Takaaki Nakagami rounded out the top ten.
The championship battle is done and dusted and all of Friday’s literal pains were forgotten as Marquez celebrated his adrenaline-infused eight title and sixth in the premier class. Dovizioso’s second place looks pretty safe but the fight for the last man attending the gala is still quite hot, Rins four points ahead of Viñales, who in turn is one point ahead of Petrucci. Quartararo is set for a poetic changing of the guard, only two points behind Rossi in the fight for sixth.
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia||9 Laps|
|82||Mika KALLIO||KTM||23 Laps|