MotoGP: MotoGP touches down at new venue Chang International Circuit Thailand
72 points is the gap Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has at the top of the MotoGP™ World Championship as the paddock heads for Buriram and new-to-the-calendar Chang International Circuit. That’s almost three race wins clear and it’s fast becoming a last chance saloon for those on the chase, currently led by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). Now is the time to strike, but no one can shake off the consistency of the number 93.
The long and challenging MotorLand Aragon is a very different beast to the Red Bull Ring and Brno, and yet the protagonists remained the same – in terms of speed at least. Although Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) suffered a Turn 1 crash and was out of the running, it was once again Honda vs Ducati at the front for the majority of the weekend and this time Marquez came out on top. So will that remain the same at Chang despite the nature of the track?
Testing tells us that Honda will be strong. It was Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) who topped Day 1 of the test at Buriram, Marquez who was quickest on Day 2 and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) went fastest on Day 3 and overall – a clean sweep for the Japanese manufacturer. Ducati Team’s Dovizioso was a little further back, and Lorenzo further still after a difficult test…but who showed their hand? Ducati have only gained momentum as the year has gone on. Lorenzo arrives on the road to recovery after that crash at Aragon, but the ‘Spartan’ isn’t known as the ‘Spartan’ for nothing.
If we are to get another Honda vs Ducati duel at the front, Team Suzuki Ecstar will be hoping they can get as close to it as they did at Aragon. Andrea Iannone was on the podium and in that battle for a bit, and teammate Alex Rins wasn’t far behind as they took two top four finishes. Rins also had good form in the test at Buriram so the signs look good for the Hamamatsu factory.
So what of Yamaha? MotorLand was a difficult weekend as the Iwata marque continue to endure a tougher time of it in 2018. During testing at Buriram they didn’t light up the timesheets either, but nevertheless Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) remains third in the title fight and not that far back from Dovizioso. Maverick Viñales is fifth and two behind his veteran teammate, but equal on points with Lorenzo, who is P4. So there is a lot to race for in the final rounds for both men.
In testing, it was Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who took home the honour of top Yamaha. The Frenchman hasn’t quite been able to keep his early season pace but he’ll take heart from that on the road to Thailand – and he’s still well within striking distance of the honour of top Independent Team rider. Crutchlow is on 119 and Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) has the same, with Zarco lurking just behind on 112 points. That can easily change in over the course of even a single race…
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) led the rookies at the Buriram test and he’ll want to pocket some points, and Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will want to start gaining back some ground on Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in the fight for Rookie of the Year. Syahrin first rode a MotoGP™ bike at Buriram, so it’s a happy hunting ground.
Testing can give us some clues as we head for Chang International Circuit, but it remains uncharted territory in terms of a race weekend. Who will tame the heat and humidity of Thailand? Tune in from the 5th to 7th October as MotoGP™ barrels in to Buriram.
Thursday 4th Oct
There, the riders were greeted by Senior Executive Vice President of PTT Buranin Rattanasombat and Tanukiat Junchum, Director of Professional Sport Development, Sport Authority Thailand in the ceremony, and they received traditional flower garlands and even models of tuk tuks! Then it was time for the riders to sit down for a few minutes Q&A with local media, ahead of heading back out onto the streets on Bangkok.
Marquez made sure the city got a real taste of MotoGP™ as he rode down Ratchadamnoen Avenue, all the way up to the democracy monument, where he did a couple of laps. Then, needing a few directions from a local, Atiratphuvapat stepped in and the two headed off for a hidden gem of the city for something to eat.
With the clock ticking down, it was time to head for Buriram – with Marquez soon roaring into town to enjoy the first ever Grand Prix at Chang International Circuit.