Whenever a new track has been added to the MotoGP calendar in the recent past, the winner has been constant – Marc Marquez. And that’s exactly what happened at the inaugural Thailand GP at Buriram as well, but, this wasn’t an easy victory like his previous triumphs. The Repsol Honda rider managed to grab pole by the skin of his teeth in front of a resurgent Valentino Rossi. The factory Yamaha was witnessing its longest winless streak and the performance of Rossi gave the Japanese outfit a glimmer of hope.
When the lights went out, it was Marquez who made a great start to lead the race and was followed by Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso. The leading pack of riders remained unchanged for the starting few laps, and despite the Honda rider posting some quick laps, he wasn’t able to break free from the Italian duo. Rossi was closely shadowing the reigning champion and with 22 laps remaining in the race, pounced on Marquez to clinch the lead to a thunderous roar from the Thai fans.
The Yamaha rider managed the race pace well and etched out a small lead over Marquez. However, the Yamaha M1’s rear tyre started spinning as track temperatures continued to increase. Coming out of the final corner, Rossi felt almost stagnant and lost drive. This allowed both Marquez and Dovizioso to easily pass him on the start-finish straight. Within the next couple of laps, the Ducati rider passed Marquez, but the race was still was wide open as only 1.8sec differentiated the top eight riders by the halfway mark. With six more laps to go, the riders started pushing hard and it became a four-way battle between Dovi, Marquez, Rossi, and Vinales.
With a couple of laps remaining, Marquez started his assault on Dovizioso, and after few failed attempts, managed to overtake the Ducati rider heading into the penultimate lap. Dovizioso responded swiftly and headed into the last lap of the race with the Honda rider hot on his trail. The reigning champion squeezed his way to grab the lead and had to negotiate a handful of corners to win the race. He ran a tight, defensive line, to safeguard his position. In an almost Marquez-style kamikaze manoeuvre, Dovi tried to dive-bomb the Repsol Honda rider, and as expected ran slightly wide, which was sufficient enough for Marquez to get a better drive and cross the finish line with a wheelie. In the battle for the last step on the podium, Vinales managed to beat his Yamaha teammate.
Marquez now leads the championship standings by 77 points and there’s a high possibility of him being crowned the 2018 champion at Honda’s backyard in the next race in Motegi, Japan.