MotoGP: Marquez vs Rossi: the fight for pole gets tight in Thailand as 0.011 separates the two
Just 0.011 separates the two as the battle heats up in Buriram – with Dovi in hot pursuit
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.