Mar­quez takes stride to­wards Mo­toGP ti­tle

THE MO­TOR­SPORT LAP/ Reign­ing cham­pion ex­tends lead in Thai­land while Bri­ton Lewis Hamil­ton could scoop the For­mula One cham­pi­onship in Austin next week­end

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Mo­tor News Re­porter

Reign­ing cham­pion Marc Mar­quez won a Mo­toGP thriller from Du­cati’s An­drea Dovizioso at the in­au­gu­ral Thai­land Grand Prix on Sun­day, and moved closer to a third suc­ces­sive ti­tle.

Af­ter fierce rac­ing in the clos­ing laps at Buri­ram, the Honda-rid­ing Spaniard nosed in front at the last cor­ner and beat the Ital­ian by 0.115 sec­onds to pre­vail in a thrilling duel.

The win ex­tended the four­times cham­pion’s lead to 77 points over Dovizioso with four races left, and Mar­quez can wrap up the se­ries in Ja­pan in two weeks with a win at Motegi.

Mav­er­ick Vi­nales fin­ished third ahead of team-mate Valentino Rossi, sig­nalling a re­turn to form for the Yamaha team af­ter a string of poor re­sults. Mar­quez started on pole af­ter win­ning his 50th qual­i­fy­ing on Satur­day but re­lin­quished the lead af­ter a poor early lap, al­low­ing Rossi and Dovizioso to pass.

Rossi’s chal­lenge fell away, leav­ing Dovizioso to bat­tle Mar­quez alone.

Du­cati had tested poorly at the track in Fe­bru­ary and it looked gloomy for the Ital­ian as Mar­quez bided his time to strike. With four laps left, Mar­quez pounced and snatched the lead but Dovizioso bravely wrested it back quickly to kick off a breath­less se­ries of over­takes, which led to Mar­quez div­ing into the lead on the fi­nal cor­ner.

SA’s Brad Bin­der (KTM) crossed the line fourth in the Moto2 class to con­sol­i­date his third place in the stand­ings. The race was won by cham­pi­onship leader Francesco Bag­naia.

LEWIS WINS, SE­BAS­TIAN SPINS

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel’s run of bad luck con­tin­ued in Ja­pan on Sun­day and it will take a mir­a­cle for the Fer­rari driver to take the ti­tle, with Lewis Hamil­ton win­ning his fourth race in suc­ces­sion to ex­tend his lead to 67 points.

Vet­tel, who started the race eighth af­ter a failed tyre gam­ble in qual­i­fy­ing, made con­tact with Max Ver­stap­pen’s Red Bull and spun while try­ing to pass the Dutch driver for third. He re­sumed in 19th and fin­ished sixth, set­ting the fastest lap.

Up front, an un­trou­bled Hamil­ton led from pole to flag, cross­ing the line 12.9 sec­onds ahead of his Mercedes team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas in a sec­ond suc­ces­sive Mercedes one-two. Ver­sap­pen was third.

Hamil­ton now has 331 points to Vet­tel’s 264 with four races re­main­ing, and the Bri­ton could seal his fifth cham­pi­onship in Austin, Texas on Oc­to­ber 21 if he wins and Vet­tel is lower than sec­ond. Hamil­ton has won all but one race there since 2012, and few would bet against him.

Af­ter the sea­son was de­vel­op­ing into a cap­ti­vat­ing duel be­tween two four-time world cham­pi­ons, it has re­cently turned into a one-horse race with Hamil­ton win­ning six of the last seven races. Vet­tel’s high­est fin­ish since his win in Bel­gium at the end of Au­gust has been third and he will need to win at least the next two, with Hamil­ton fail­ing to score, for any mir­a­cle to look re­motely pos­si­ble

OGIER TAMES WALES

World cham­pion Se­bastien Ogier won the Wales Rally Great Bri­tain for M-Sport Ford on Sun­day to close the gap on Hyundai’s over­all leader Thierry Neuville to seven points with two rounds re­main­ing.

The French­man pre­vailed af­ter a bat­tle with Toy­ota’s Jar­iMatti Lat­vala, who had the lead in the morn­ing but fell to sec­ond place on the penul­ti­mate stage.

Ogier, who has won five times in Bri­tain, fin­ished with an ad­van­tage of 10.6 sec­onds. Es­apekka Lappi ended third.

The next round is Rally Catalunya in Spain on Oc­to­ber 25-28.

Honda’s Marc Mar­quez.

Vet­tel’s ti­tle hopes all but over.

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