Moto2: Advantage Bagnaia as title fight continues

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Francesco Bagnaia was happy after he crossed the line at Buriram for a magnificent seventh win, but that ramped up even more as teammate Luca Marini pulled up alongside him to signal he’d made it a Sky Racing Team one-two. Bagnaia had been set to gain five points on rival Miguel Oliveira by the latter stages but after Marini’s late charge saw him get past the Portuguese rider, five became nine and the advantage for Bagnaia is now more than a win.

There is a fair way yet to go and 100 points up for grabs beginning in Japan, but Bagnaia knows that was an important result. Oliveira does too, and he knows it’s now gloves off and there’s no margin to play it safe. Motegi needs to begin a fight back before the venues the Portuguese rider dominated last season appear on the horizon; friendly faces after some tougher rounds.

Tougher round is something on the lips of Alex Marquez, teammate Joan Mir, Lorenzo Baldassarri and Marcel Schrötter after Buriram. All crashing out and heading for Japan empty headed, it was a Sunday to forget for all. But there are some positives for many to take from the weekend, and some positives looking ahead – Marquez, for example, took his first ever GP win at Motegi, in 2013 as a Moto3 rookie.

An expensive day for those guys was a welcome gain for Brad Binder though, as the South African stoked his points haul with another solid result. ‘Better than my usual sixth,’ was the smile after a hard-fought fourth in Thailand, and the South African is now in a comfortable third overall in the standings. Consistency has been a buzz word for Binder, with the 2016 Moto3 world champion only surpassed by Bagnaia and Oliveira in that department as the two remain the only two to take points every race.

Motegi always shows incredible support for every rider and they’ll be in for another showstopper on Sunday, but the crowd will also have their eye on some home favourites – including Tetsuta Nagashima in Moto2. Nagashima has been consistently progressing and getting further to the front, and Thailand saw the Japanese rider take his best ever result in eighth. He’ll be gunning for another top ten and points at home.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer