Marc Marquez may have won his eighth MotoGP world title in front of a massive, sweltering crowd at the second Thai Grand Prix but Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Fabio Quartararo came closer than ever to embellishing his status as the standout story of the 2019 world championship.
At the fast and daunting Chang International Circuit the 21 year old Yamaha star – a debutant in the premier class this year and already with five podium finishes and four Pole Positions – took the battle to Marquez for the third time after disputes in Assen, Holland and Misano, Italy in recent weeks.
He led from the opening exchanges of the 26 lap chase and the fifteenth round of nineteen in the 2019 contest but with the Repsol Honda as his shadow. Quartararo, riding a ‘B’ spec Yamaha compared to the factory machines of Monster Energy Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales (as well as his SRT teammate Franco Morbidelli) lost out to Marquez in top speed but could remain in contention thanks to his cornering acumen and excellent combo with the #20 motorcycle.
The decisive moment arrived whern Quartararo lunged inside of Marquez on the last corner of the final lap, but his line took him too deep into the turn and his rival was able to squeeze past and deny the Frenchman for the third time this term. “I already said at Misano and a few races ago, Fabio is one of the main contenders for next year,” said Marquez. “He is riding the Yamaha in a very good way and he is using all the track all the time. He found a way to keep the corner speed very high, so he has made the difference but today we have taken profit from our engine in the two main straights.”
“Mixed emotions of course,” admitted the rookie “but we can be proud of what we did today because we were challenging the eight-time world champion in the last corner of the last lap. We can only be happy with what we achieved with the team, and we are going step by step but this one was really close. We were first at the last corner and I tried to stop the bike but it was not possible.”
“Honestly in this moment my brain was off,” he added. “I said ‘I will try…’ because if not would go home and I wouldn’t sleep until Japan, so I tried. We knew that at Turn 12 it is not gravel on the exit so I tried and if not I would go wide. I tried my best and it was really close so it was really good to fight with Marc. I am really looking forward to the next race already to work and to try to challenge this guy again.”
Also on the box was Maverick Viñales. The Spaniard made the top three for the sixth time in 2019 and hovers just four points behind Alex Rins in the pursuit for third place in the standings.
Moto2 saw cause for celebration in the SKY Racing Team VR46 camp. Luca Marini scooped his first win of the season and the second of his career with a commanding display in front of the warring KTMs of Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona.
“A beautiful race and beautiful victory!” the Italian beamed. “I immediately created a gap of almost 3 seconds. I'm very happy because we finished the race by dominating and it's the first time in my career. It was not easy to stay focused until the finishing line. I tried not to think and not to make mistakes. The bike was perfect, even with the high temperatures. The guys did a great job and it was hard for them too because it was 50 degrees into the garage. Thanks to all the team, the Academy and my family.”
The heat and humidity of the Thai Grand Prix is a precursor to the intense ‘triple’ to come.
After a week’s pause MotoGP will bounce from Japan to Australia and then Malaysia.