MotoGP Buriram: Oliveira masters delayed wet race

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira secured his second MotoGP victory of 2022 with another wet weather showcase in Thailand.

Following his Indonesia celebrations, Oliveira bettered the Ducati might of Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia to claim the top step of the Buriram podium after starting from the middle of the fourth row in 11th. The Italian now just two points behind Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo in the title fight with three races remaining.

MotoGP action got underway an hour later than anticipated after torrential rain hit the Chang International Circuit just in time for the Moto2 race. Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi commanded the grid for the first time in his, and his team’s, premier class career, with Ducati locking out the front row. Quartararo, the lone non-Bologna rider in the top seven, split the pack from fourth.

Lights finally out and Bezzecchi kept his head and the holeshot despite running wide at turn one as the Ducati Lenovo pairing of Bagnaia and a hard-charging Miller grabbed second and third. Quartararo dropping down the pack as he regrouped in 17th after a moment on the kerbs. Jorge Martin consolidated fourth on the Prima Pramac with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez best of the rest in fifth.

Oliveira arrived to demote the Spaniard as lap two wound down. Contact between Aleix Espargaro and the second KTM of Brad Binder saw the Aprilia advance to 11th, a Tech3 rookie duo behind him with Yamaha’s Franky Morbidelli and Binder in the final points positions.

Bezzecchi was told to drop a position as lap three fired up - after going wide at turn one. Miller through to second and ready to take charge as Oliveira’s progress continued to fourth and Luca Marini arrived to fifth. The success was short lived for the VR46 rider, however, as Marini crashed out as lap four neared conclusion, the Italian falling foul of turn nine for his first DNF in the premier class.

Miller was on fire out front with the fastest lap of the race so far, his advantage stretching to over a second as Oliveira captured second from the poleman. Bagnaia followed suit on the second factory Ducati as Bezzecchi fell from second to fourth in a matter of moments. Marquez sitting a comfortable fifth before he too dispatched the fading Italian.

Quartararo continued to struggle as he circulated on the edge of the points, the reigning champion dropping again, this time to 18th, as Maverick Viñales and Pol Espargaro capitalised. Alex Marquez battling the Pramacs of Martin and Johann Zarco on the edge of the top ten before the LCR rider bettered both to take sixth.

Espargaro’s rise faltered with a long lap penalty from tenth after his earlier altercation with Binder. Marquez joining his elder brother in the top five as Oliveira began to reel in the leader after nine laps of action.

Penalty dispatched, Espargaro returned to the track in 14th, teammate Vinales narrowly in front with Binder, Raul Fernandez and Morbidelli ahead.

Oliveira could taste control as lap 11 began, just two tenths covering the leading duo with Miller defending from the Portuguese rider, Bagnaia just under two seconds adrift. Remy Gardner the next to retire following a crash at turn one.

Zarco claimed a fastest lap as the revitalised Frenchman circulated sixth, two seconds ahead of his teammate. Oliveira through to the lead at the final corner and pushing to build a gap as lap 15 began.

Ten to go and the gap out front was half a second as the KTM held fast from the chasing Ducati. Espargaro battling the second RC16 just adrift of the top ten with Vinales 1.6s ahead of the pair before Binder was relegated to 12th.

Miller looked to settle for second with eighth to go as the gap increased to over a second. Bagnaia quickly coming under fire from Marquez as the former champion held the podium in his sights with Zarco reeling the front group in from fifth.

The Frenchman set a 1’38.9 as the race hit six to go, just three seconds covering the top five with Marquez launching, unsuccessfully, at Bagnaia before Zarco took at look at the Spaniard next time around. The move was dispatched at turn eight as Marquez dropped back to fifth, Bagnaia now half a second ahead in the final podium position.

A dry line developed in the closing four laps as Zarco honed in on the factory Ducati. Gresini’s Enea Bastianini rising to sixth as he split the Marquez brothers with Morbidelli doing likewise on the two Aprilia’s from tenth.

Miller advanced on Oliveira in the penultimate lap as the gap reduced to half a second before the KTM rider responded. Bagnaia digging deep as the final lap began to free himself from the advances of his GP22 colleague, much to the relief of the bosses in the garage, with the quartet meeting the flag unchallenged. Marquez competed the top five from Bastianini and a late-charging Viñales with Alex Marquez, Martin and Brad Binder rounding out the top ten. Espargaro demoted Morbidelli in the closing stages fro 11th and 12th with Suzuki’s Alex Rins, Pol Espargaro and Fernandez collecting the final points from a devastated Bezzecchi and Quartararo.

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