Moto2: Bagnaia and Marini close down title race
An impressive one-two for the Sky Team of Francesco Bagnaia and Luca Marini has closed down the Moto2 title race, with the Italian duo coming out on top of a close fight with the Red Bull KTM pair of Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder at the Thai Grand Prix. The KTMs looked strong at the start of the race but first championship leader Bagnaia and then his teammate were able to make their way through. Brit Sam Lowes struggled to make up places after being knocked wide at turn one, before crashing on the final lap.
The championship protagonists were joined at the front by Brad Binder in a proper dogfight. Uncharacteristically though, Bagnaia ran wide at turn 12 on a couple of occasions and almost collected the rear of Oliveira as the trio ran in close into the tricky turn three, before Binder then lost control under braking into turn five, narrowly avoiding his teammate to drop to third, with tensions were running fairly high on circuit.
Bagnaia, however, had composed himself and started to reel in Oliveira after the Portuguese rider had been able to grab a half-second lead, and the Italian struck for the lead with 13 laps to go. It was then a case of the Italian finding his rhythm out front, slamming home two consecutive fastest laps to stretch the gap to over a second with ten laps to go.
The lead slowly edged out to 1.5 seconds with four laps to go, and Marini was starting to look menacing in fourth. Closing down Binder as he eyed his first podium finish since Austria, the Italian clawed the gap down to nothing with three to go and then made his move into turn 12. The Italian then locked his radar on Oliveira heading into the last lap.
Turn three saw the Portuguese rider run wide and Marini swept through, holding station to play the perfect wingman to teammate Bagnaia as the latter crossed the line to take his seventh win of the season. The team gained in their Championship and Bagnaia is now 28 points clear heading into the final four races of the year.
Binder eventually crossed the line fourth to finish just off the podium in another solid ride for the South African, with Fabio Quartararo finishing in a somewhat lonely fifth place after an early battle with Marini. After looking strong across Free Practice and qualifying, Mattia Pasini picked up a sixth in Thailand, with Iker Lecuona claiming his first top ten since Austria in seventh. Eighth was Tetsuta Nagashima in a career-best finish for the Japanese rider before he heads to his home GP at Motegi, with Andrea Locatelli and Simone Corsi completing the top ten at the Chang International Circuit.
Some famous names are missing from that list and it was a race of attrition for a few riders. There was first lap drama with Joan Mir, Marcel Schrötter and Augusto Fernandez going down at turn three after Mir lost the front, leaving Schrötter and Fernandez with nowhere to go, and pole man Lorenzo Baldassarri crashed out of contention at turn one. Alex Marquez had lost the front heading into turn five two laps earlier; both pushing to keep tabs on the leading trio.