Motegi: no margin to play it safe

Team work made the dream work at Buriram, with Bagnaia now 28 points clear

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 VR46 1-2. Bagnaia had been set to gain five points on rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 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. Worth celebrating? You bet.

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 (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), teammate Joan Mir, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) and Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) 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 (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 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 (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) 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.

Teammates, tactics, thrills and hopefully less spills await at the Twin Ring Motegi. Don’t miss Moto2™ as the tensions continue to rise – tune in for the race at 12:20 (GMT +9) on Sunday.