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The second race of the day at the PTT Thailand Grand Prix saw the Moto2™ Championship fight ignite in the heat of Buriram at the Chang International Circuit. With the rain still holding off despite dark clouds, it was an intriguing race which saw Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) storm to a first victory in almost a year, whilst Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Iker Lecuona (American Racing KTM) locked out the podium places on a day where Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) had no answer for his opposition, losing points in his championship lead.
Lights-out and down to Turn 1, it was front row starter Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) who stole the march but went wide on the exit of Turn 1, allowing Alex Marquez to come back through on the blast down into Turn 3. Luca Marini was soon through into third at the final corner, whilst Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Augusto Fernandez (FlexBox HP 40) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) queued up behind. It was a disastrous start for home-hero Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), who started 12th but was 21st after Lap 1.
The Italian soon got through into second and Marini now set off after Alex Marquez at the front of the field. Nagashima was a sitting duck and by the end of the second lap of the race, Iker Lecuona and Remy Gardner – Nagashima’s teammate – had got ahead of the Japanese rider, who once again was struggling with race pace after a strong qualifying. The Japanese rider would go on to fade further.
Lecuona may have got third occupied but he wanted more, and he set off after Alex Marquez. Luca Marini hammered in relentlessly fast lap times, the only rider able to go into the 1’36.0 bracket whilst the battled heated up behind him. Marquez soon found himself caught by Lecuona, with Brad Binder and Augusto Fernandez closing in behind.
Further back, the ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team began to fade away, with Remy Gardner not being able to do anything about Jorge Martin in front of him. Soon, the Australian had Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) in front of him, who in-turn was struggling, witnessing his Moto2™ title aspirations going away. Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) was up to eighth ahead of Gardner too.
With 10 laps to go, the battle for second erupted and after numerous laps of stalking, Lecuona made his move for second stick at Turn 6, just half a lap after he first tried at the final corner. Marquez was now vulnerable and had to resist the onslaught of the chasing pack. However, he wasn’t able to hold off Brad Binder and the South African got ahead of Marquez two laps later. The fight between Marquez and title rival Fernandez was now on the horizon.
Luca Marini was untroubled out front and Lecuona had now been closed down by Binder for second. However, the championship battle was for fourth, with Fernandez and Marquez beginning to scrap and swap paint with just five laps left. The two duelled but at the same time, Binder was now challenging Lecuona, with the two fighting hard over the podium allowing Fernandez to sniff an opportunity at the podium.
On the final lap, an imperious Luca Marini romped to his first win in 2019 but the final corner in Buriram provided yet more drama, as Brad Binder went around the outside of Lecuona to make it to second when it counted, whilst Lecuona was just about able to hold onto to his first podium of the season. Augusto Fernandez pinched fourth whilst Alex Marquez had to settle for fifth.
Behind the top five there was plenty of action, with Jorge Martin taking sixth and his best result of 2019. Lüthi came home in seventh ahead of Bulega, whilst unbelievably, from the depths of despair on the opening lap when he was down in 21st, Somkiat Chantra had some how put in one of the rides of the day to finish in ninth, pipping Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) at the final corner to get the home crowd going crazy in the stands. Second in the Championship coming into the round, Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) suffered a wretched race and finished down in 17th.
There were crashes throughout the race, including Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) at Turn 5, soon to be joined a few laps later Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). Early Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40) also crashed, having run inside the top ten before tumbling at Turn 12. Britain’s Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) had a miserable end to a testing round, as he crashed out at the fast Turn 8 in the final third of the race.
Top 10 after Moto2™ race, full results here!
1. Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46)
2. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) +2.296
3. Iker Lecuona (American Racing KTM) +2.544
4. Augusto Fernandez (FlexBox HP 40) +2.585
5. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) +2.919
6. Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) +6.839
7. Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) +12.500
8. Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) +13.669
9. Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) +14.622
10. Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) +14.726
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