Friday and Saturday seemed to give us a clue to what was going to happen on Sunday in the Thai Grand Prix, as Jorge Martin struggled with the fitness of his left hand and key title rival Marco Bezzecchi took pole. Even come Sunday, the Spaniard looked to be on the back foot. It was a big about face by the flag, however, as Martin was able to steadily make his way through the pack and Bezzecchi was crashed out through no fault of his own. The result? 26 points of advantage for the Gresini rider, a serious mountain for Bezzecchi to climb, and a new big contender.
After his first win earlier in the season, Buriram marked the second for Fabio Di Giannantonio and it’s taken him to within just three points of second in the standings. With Enea Bastianini failing to finish in the incident with Bezzecchi and Aron Canet missing through injury, where there were once a group of five contenders there now appear to be three and Di Giannantonio is far from a dark horse. The hard-braking monster of Motegi will be a challenge for Martin and his recovering hand, and both the Italians chasing him down know it’s increasingly now or never as the season barrels on.
As well as that fight at the front and the key names so often in contention, there will be a lot at stake in Japan for those riding on home turf, too. Buriram became something of a turning point for two of them: Kazuki Masaki and Ayumu Sasaki. Masaki put it on the front row for the first time and briefly led before sadly crashing out, and Sasaki led FP2, showed top pace and battled at the front for a good while until falling victim to some racing that got a little too close. Motegi is a page turned but there are some big positives to take there.
That’s also true for Kaito Toba, who took 12th and was back in the battle for points and recovering some Sunday form. He also has a new deal for next season in his pocket, as does compatriot Tatsuki Suzuki, although he sadly crashed out in Thailand. It was a mixed bag for the Japanese contingent at the flag, but they’ll mean business once again at Motegi.