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Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) claimed a magnificent seventh win of 2018 at the PTT Thailand Grand Prix to claim the 800th Italian Grand Prix win, finishing ahead of teammate Luca Marini by 1.5 seconds after the latter got the better of Bagnaia’s title rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) on the final lap.
Thailand temperatures were soaring and so was the battle on track between the Moto2™ Championship protagonists, who were joined at the front by Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in a proper dogfight at the front after making their way to the summit in the opening exchanges from P5 and P6 on the grid respectively. 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 3, before Binder then lost control under braking into Turn 5, narrowly avoiding his teammate to drop to P3 – tensions running high on circuit.
Bagnaia though had composed himself and started to reel in Oliveira after the race leader had been able to grab a half-second lead, before Bagnaia took P1 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 10 to go.
Round 15: Moto2™ Full Race
The lead slowly edged out to 1.5 seconds with four laps to go with Marini now starting to look menacing in P4, closing down Binder as he eyed his first podium finish since Austria. The Italian clawed the gap down to nothing with three to go, with teammate Bagnaia managing the gap out front. Marini made his move into Turn 12 past Binder and with two to go, with the Italian then locking his radar on Oliveira heading into the last lap.
Turn 3 then saw Oliveira run wide in what turned out to be a costly error. Marini swept through and held station to play the perfect wingman to teammate Bagnaia, as the latter crossed the line to take his seventh win of the season – 28 points now the advantage heading into the final four races of the year.
Binder crossed the line fourth to finish just off the podium, another solid ride for the South African, with Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up) finishing in a lonely fifth place after an early battle with Marini. After looking strong across Free Practice and qualifying, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) picks up a P6 in Thailand, with Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) claiming his first top ten since Austria in P7. Eighth was Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), a career-best finish for the Japanese rider before he heads to his home GP at Motegi, with Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) completing the top ten at the Chang International Circuit.
There was first lap drama with Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) going down at Turn 3 after Mir lost the front, leaving Schrotter and Fernandez with nowhere to go. Elsewhere, pole man Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) crashed out of contention at Turn 1 with 16 to go after Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) had lost the front heading into Turn 5 two laps earlier - both pushing to keep tabs on the leading trio.
Stefano Manzi (Forward Racing) and Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) crashed out too – riders ok.
After a masterful ride, Bagnaia takes charge of the intermediate class title race. However, with the trio of flyway races next and with Oliveira winning the final three races of 2017, the Championship certainly isn’t done and dusted. Onto Japan we go then for more spectacular Moto2™ action.
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