2018 MotoGP Thailand - Chang International
Movistar Yamaha Return to Form with Thai GP Podium Fight
Nobody knew what to expect at the inaugural MotoGP race in Buriram, adding even more tension and excitement to the atmosphere on the starting grid, and the PTT Thailand Grand Prix certainly didn't disappoint. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi were fighting at the front of the field for the entire length of the 26-lap race. Ultimately, it was Viñales who secured a place on the podium, taking third, just ahead of Rossi who finished fourth.
Viñales started from fourth on the grid but lost two positions in the busy opening laps as all riders were vying for a place at the front of the rider field. Having settled in sixth position, the number 25 rider soon started to fight back. He reclaimed fifth position on lap 3, overtaking Johann Zarco, and picked up his pace to tag onto the leading group. The five front riders, including the Spaniard, soon broke away, but the threat from behind wasn't over just yet. On lap 11 the first three riders started to battle. This allowed the clever youngster to get into the mix, but it also meant that the pursuing field inched closer.
The pressure was on the Yamaha rider, but he wasn't buckling. As the first three riders tried to break away once more, the youngster quickly overtook Cal Crutchlow, and with seven laps remaining, he joined his teammate. A lap later he overtook the Doctor, giving himself a clear view of the leading duo. With three laps to go the fight for the win really kicked off. Viñales was lying in wait directly behind Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez. Though he came just short of putting in a move, he was mighty close as he finished in third place, just 0.270s from first and 0.155s from second.
Rossi had a flying start from P2 on the grid and held the position firmly through the first corner. He was on the attack right from the get-go, putting Marquez under pressure, especially in sector 4 before they crossed the line for the very first time. The Spaniard was desperate to shake off the Doctor, but was unsuccessful. The Italian kept running the pace and took over the lead with a brilliant move on lap 5, making the grand stands erupt.
The nine-time World Champion held the number one spot until lap 11, when Dovizioso and Marquez pushed him back to third. With seven laps remaining, he was joined by his teammate. Though he had to let Viñales pass one lap later, he kept shadowing the frontrunners' every move and closed right back in on the final lap. However, an unsuccessful lunge in the final corner meant he remained in fourth place, as he took the chequered flag 1.564s from first.
Today's results see Rossi hold third position in the championship standings with a 99-point margin to first and a 22-point gap to second. Viñales climbed up to fourth place with a 26-point gap to his teammate. Yamaha holds third place in the Constructor Championship after the race in Thailand, with an 88-point margin to first, while the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team are also in third position in the team standings with a 40-point gap to first and a 6-point margin to second.
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in two weeks' time for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, held from October 19th - 21st.
Position: 3rd - Championship: 4th - Points: 146
"I was stronger than I expected in the race. I got stuck behind Cal and fought a little with Valentino, and after that I felt really good. The bike was working well, so I'm very pleased about that. For sure I'm happy to finish so close to the top, to be on the podium, and to be able to recover nearly one second at the end, all under difficult conditions in which we used to suffer. I'm honestly very pleased, because the work we've done this weekend was done in a good way. It was hot and slippery, but we were still there, so we have to take this race in Thailand as an example and work even harder for the next race. I had a lot of confidence in the front, especially on braking. Let's see if we can manage this again for the next races. If we can do it again in Japan, it will mean we have improved. It's important to stay consistent, precise, and focused."
Position: 4th - Championship: 3rd - Points: 172
"During this weekend we improved a lot. Unfortunately, I wasn't strong enough for the podium, but it was still a much better race than we had at the last three or four rounds. I always stayed at the front, in all the sessions, I started from the front row - we were competitive, and it was a good weekend, but it's still not enough. Our main rivals were a bit faster and we need to understand if this track helped us or if, in reality, we made a step."
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP - Team Director
"It was great to see both Maverick and Vale fight at the front in today's race. It has been a positive GP weekend for both, especially considering the challenges we faced previously at this circuit and also in the previous round. The team pulled through and has done a great job. Maverick took a good third place, with Valentino not far behind in fourth. It's a shame our strong pace couldn't be rewarded by having our two riders on the podium after such a strong weekend by both of them, but we can be satisfied about the step we made. This is a good confidence boost before the usual overseas triple-header without a break in between the rounds, which starts in two weeks. The first one up is the race in Japan, which of course is another important round for Yamaha as it's our home GP. It will be crucial to keep the momentum we gained this weekend going during this busy period."
Fantastic Fifth by Zarco in Buriram - Syahrin Fights Back with Top Rookie Result
With an incredible strong performance Monster Yamaha Tech3 star Johann Zarco fought back to the top 5 in today's scorching first ever Thailand Grand Prix. Starting from the third row of the grid, the fast Frenchman was quickly inside the fight for the top. Although he got passed later during the race, he fought back very strong to catch the fifth position on the final lap and eventually finish as the best independent rider.
Likewise Hafizh Syahrin showed an amazing performance at the hot Chang International Circuit. Launching his 15th MotoGP race from P18, he found an impressive rhythm after the first laps and passed one opponent after another. The Malaysian newcomer to the premier class kept his fast lap times until the finish line to earn the laurels for the best rookie, plus four important points in the championship.
Position: 5th - Championship: 8th - Points: 123
"It's a track I like. The test has already been good in February. During the race weekend I was struggling, as I found it difficult to have a good pace, but in the race finally I was not that bad as I was thinking. I could enjoy it and was able to stick with the front, but still there was a gap in acceleration, so you need to compensate this, but when you try to catch them on the brake, you easily do a mistake and it was pretty difficult. I had to fight with Viñales in the beginning, but did a mistake and then I had to fight to catch back up. The pace was good. Then I saw Rins, I could push even more and overtook Crutchlow, plus Pedrosa crashed, so it was a tough race. It was difficult for me, but I think it was also difficult for them and at the end, I was fighting with Rins, who was in front of me. I was feeling good enough to catch him, but I knew that I had to stay focussed to don't do any mistake. Finally, he went a little bit wide and I could go inside in corner nine to safe the fifth position. I'm pretty happy, because I'm not far from the winner and first independent is very good for the championship overall."
Position: 12th - Championship: 18th - Points: 28
"I'm really happy to be back in the points. In the beginning of the weekend, FP1 until Qualifying, I was always in P18, so I felt a bit disappointed to myself, but I never gave up. I was really working hard with the team and they believed in me, which is what I needed. In the beginning of the race, my bike was overheating. The oil temperature was too hot and I didn't feel the power of the bike. I tried to understand and try to think what I can do, so I decided not to use any slipstream because the bike was so hot. So, I first passed Nakagami and thought I can catch up with Morbidelli, I passed him and then I tried to keep the rhythm. I was really consistent. But still, I need to work hard in the next rounds and try to get closer to Morbidelli again. Now we made two points on him, but it's still five to go, so we have to try to be in front of him for the rest of the season. Now we start to believe in our capacity, the bike worked well, I chose the right tyre and overall, we were working very well. I'm truly happy."
Monster Yamaha Tech3 - Team Manager
"What a race here in Buriram for the Thai Grand Prix! After what we saw in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, I really wouldn't understand if the Thai crowd doesn't love this sport. I think it was an incredible day, an incredible and mad crowd, which is an unbelievable feeling. For Monster Yamaha Tech3, we didn't really know what to expect here. There was a lot of concern about the track conditions, the heat on the track and the tyre was a bit of a worry for everyone. Johann bravely decided to take a medium front, which was the softer option compared to most of his opponents and at the end of the race that paid off. The lap time never dropped. He had a great start, was right in front with the group, unfortunately he had a little bit of a moment touching Maverick (Viñales) in turn one, where he lost a full second on the leading group and then slowly by slowly, him, Dani (Pedrosa) and Alex (Rins) caught back on the front, but Johann was behind. Then Dani made a mistake and you could see that he was clearly closing. Cal (Crutchlow) was slowing down and finally we didn't know if we could have the possibility to pass Alex in the last sector of the last lap, but he made it. A top 5 is an unbelievable result, very close to the leaders and Yamaha was in three, four and five, so we were right behind the factory guys, plus the best independent rider, which is quite a lot time it didn't happen and the independent championship between Johann, Cal and Danilo (Petrucci) is very close. It's really exciting and I'm very happy for Johann and the whole team as well, because recently we went through some tough times and we know that a positive result brings a lot of positive spirit and a lot of the result is in the rider's mind. So, Johann is leaving Thailand for a week off before Japan with a positive frame of mind, which is very important. On the other side of the garage, Hafizh had a bad start, but showed an unbelievable recovery. He was lapping really fast, I was impressed. He decided to go hard - hard like the big boys and made it work. He passed all of his main opponents and just to die on the rear wheel of Andrea Iannone. His race was honestly one of the best the whole year. It was a bit of struggle in Misano and Aragon and we didn't know what to expect, but he showed us that we shouldn't worry about the future. He's learning a lot, his physical condition was great and without a small technical issue on his equipment I think there was a small possibility to end up ahead of Iannone. At the end of the day we are happy, our two guys made a great race and also very big congratulations to Hafizh and the entire Monster Yamaha Tech3 crew. Now we have one week before Japan, but if the show is the same there, it's going to be another exciting week. Meanwhile, we are packing as happy guys."