Journey of The Jackass, Chapter 15: The Siam Sojourn
Track: Buriram United International Circuit
Thailand: People think it’s full of ladyboys, and they’d be half-right.
First of all, I’d like to say a big hello to my Number One MotoGP reader Mr Merv, who travelled up to Thailand to enjoy the weekend’s racing!… And some of the local ‘entertainment’.
There was a big shock in FP1, as Marc Marquez had a massive crash at Turn 7, after losing the rear end on cold tyres, leading to a massive high side which flung the Spaniard off his bike, which spectacularly destroyed itself.
Marquez commented that he “Couldn’t breathe for 5 seconds”, and was taken to hospital for checks on his back and left leg, but was given the all clear to ride in FP2.
Other than that, most of the lead contenders (Including Jack) set quick enough times in Practice to go straight into Q2 the next day, and of course, the equation was simple- Marc had to outscore Andrea Dovizioso by 2 points to claim the title.
A classic South East Asian monsoon struck the area during the morning practice session, causing all sorts of chaos, and leading to strange scenes of crabs on the track.
Eventually, it was perfectly stinking bone dry by the afternoon.
There weren’t many shocks in Q1, and in Q2, Fabio Quartararo was the first rider to ever crack a sub-90 second lap in Thailand, going top with a 1.29.920, and Marquez joined him seconds later, but missed provisional pole by 0.011 of a second.
There was disappointment for the Vale Yellow, as Valentino Rossi fell at Turn 5, but was able to rush back to the pits get on his spare bike, and show the exact same middling pace he was showing before, eventually qualifying 9th.
Quartararo soon bettered his own time with a 1.29.719, as Yamaha’s decision to give him an extra 500 revs looked a good one.
There was absolute craziness to end Q2, as Marquez became the lastest victim of Turn 5, sliding out after pushing so hard to top Quartararo, and then El Diablo did the same thing just a few metres up the road, as the chequered flag dropped, Vinales joined the 1.29 club and bumped Marquez to 3rd, and that was that- Another pole for El Diablo in his rookie season, and Yamaha with 3 riders in the Top 4!
Dovi’s chances of extending the championship fight looked as bleak as a British summer, qualifying in 7th, directly behind Jack (In 6th), and a vastly improved Danilo Petrucci, in the battle to be the best of the Bologna Bullets.
Advantage Yamaha after qualifying, but Marquez was in Position 1A to bring up the ‘8 Ball’ of Motorcycle world titles.
Race (26 Laps)
A massive crowd in attendance, and track temperatures were soaring in excess of 49 degrees Celsius, which meant that every rider (Except Jorge Lorenzo) went for a hard front tyre and a soft rear tyre.
Just seconds before the lights went out, there was an utter disaster for our protagonist, as Jack stalled his bike on the grid, and had to desperately wheel the Pramac back into the pits and start from the lane, costing him 14 seconds to the rest of the field, and killing off his chances of a Top 10 finish.
When they finally jumped, Quartararo held the lead, Marquez was into 2nd from Vinales, and Dovi was into 4th, giving himself every chance of keeping the championship alive, but it was apparent that the Ducati wasn’t on the same continent as the Yamaha… or Marquez.
Marquez briefly passed Quartararo into Turn 3, but the Spaniard couldn’t slow down in time and ran wide, and it was as you were.
The Yamaha and the Honda carried on setting a mighty hot pace, trading lap records like they were tourists trading pingers, as Vinales had another 6 lap lull which put him a mile back, while there was Italian on Italian action as Morbidelli closed up on Dovi, and there was a Suzuki vs Suzuki fight between Mir and Rins.
Way down in the cellar, Jack took 6 laps to catch up to the backmarkers, passing Lorenzo for 19th, and that was just about the last we heard from Jack for the rest of the afternoon, as he desperately charged through the midfield.
10 laps in, and both the Suzukis passed The Doctor, bumping him down to 8th, and it soon became apparent that his Yamaha just didn’t have the pace to fight the Top 6.
You wouldn’t have known that Marquez didn’t even need to go for the win to claim the title, because at the halfway mark, he was winding up for another attack on Quartararo, but he never made the lunge, most likely weighing up where to pass the Frenchman, and create a repeat of his win at Misano.
Further down, Aleix Espargaro was cruelly robbed of a Top 10 finish due to mechanical problems with his Aprilla, while Vinales had picked up again, and was closing in on Marc and Fabio, while Rins had passed Morbidelli for 5th, and was humping the rear wheel of Dovi.
With 4 laps to go, the crowd was going nuts, as Marquez sent a warning shot as he went down the outside into Turn 3 again, but the Frenchman kept holding on, despite a few wobbles, and it was seriously looking like a moment of if not when the Honda would get past.
Marquez made the move at Turn 3, and this time, the Spaniard got his Honda stopped and took the lead for the first time all day, but the Yamaha was the faster bike in Sector 4, so it wasn’t over yet!
As if honour and entertainment demanded it, El Diablo made the last desperate pass at Turn 15, but Marquez saw it coming, cut back up the inside, and powered on to the chequered flag to claim yet another thrilling win, and in grand style, securing his 6th Premier-Class title, and his 8th in Grand Prix motorcyle racing- The so-called 8 Ball!
15 races, 14 podiums (No lower than 2nd) and 9 wins…. and the organisers even set-up a bloody pool table on-track for him to pot the celebratory 8 Ball.
With the most pressure he’s faced all weekend, Marquez easily proved his competency at billiards.
I wonder what was going on in Fabio’s head… 2 of the last 3 race weekends he’s ridden a flawless race and creamed his rivals… only to be denied victory by the most unstoppable force on 2 wheels.
For now, he’ll carry on contemplating the point of life, having to compete against Marc every weekend.
While Jack was able to claw his way back to 14th and salvage a few points, he revealed the self-inflicted reason as to why he stopped on the grid- He accidentally hit the kill switch on his Ducati!
Highlighting his dominance, Marquez now has more points in 2019 with 4 races to go, than he accumulated to win last year’s title.
8th place is looking more and more likely for Jack, as he falls 24 points Quartararo in
Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster
After a very quiet weekend in Aragon, where he managed to stay upright and finish in 13th, Remy Gardner put in another good performance on Saturday, qualifying on the second row in 5th, as Alex Marquez took another step forward in his championship chase, qualifying on pole.
In fact, Remy’s teammate Tetsuta Nagashima qualified 2nd, planting both SAG bikes in the Top 6!
Race (24 Laps)
Gardner had a clean start, holding 6th on the opening lap, and was soon running as high as 3rd, as Luca Marini overtook Marquez, who was more interested in protecting his championship lead than fighting for the win, especially with Jorge Navarro trapped in midfield.
The KTM of Iker Lecuona was the surprise packet, going from 10th to 3rd, having never finished in the Top 6 once this season, and he was comfortably pressuring Marquez, but the younger brother of Marc didn’t flinch.
Despite the promising start, as both bikes ran in the podium places at various times, the SAG bikes of Gardner and Nagashima just didn’t have any pace whatsoever, and they soon fell to just under a metric mile off the Top 6, which soon became a mile off the Top 10, as their lack of pace in the blistering heat was a problem more than a few riders suffered.
The home fans were loving Somikat Chantra, who fell down to 21st after a terrible start, but was soon charging up through the midfield, and up to 10th, all the while going off the track about half a dozen times.
Vierge passed Gardner for 8th, and then suffered the same fate as so many other riders this weekend, falling off at Turn 5.
Lecuona almost claimed Marquez on the start/finish straight for Lap 14, but he eventually got it done at Turn 6, and Binder soon joined him at Turn 12, as the Spaniard’s Kalex was struggling for grip.
Lecuona and Binder had a massive fight for 2nd, which miraculously didn’t end in tears as Binder just about molested the Spaniard, and Fernandez passed Marquez for 4th, dropping Alex’s championship lead down to 40 points.
But out in front, it was all Luca Marini, who cruised away to his first win since Malaysia last year, while the action for the podium places went right to the end, as Binder pulled a sideways blinder down the outside into the last corner, and somehow made it stick to take 2nd, and Lecouna ended up finishing on the podium by a mere 4 hundredths of a second ahead of Fernandez, and Marquez was off the podium for the first time in 9 races.
As it turned out, Lecuona very nearly high-sided while avoiding contact with Binder in the charge out of the last corner.
A disappointing result for Remy, once again qualifying well, but having no damn pace on Sunday.. but at least he stayed on.
NEXT UP: To the home of 90% of the teams- Japan in a fortnight!