After a short break following the Aragon round, MotoGP begins the flyaway races in Asia starting with in Thailand where Marc Marquez has his first opportunity to seal the 2019 world title.

While the breakdown of points permutations is diverse, the simple fact is Marquez needs to outscore Andrea Dovizioso by two points at the Chang International Circuit to secure his sixth MotoGP title and his eighth world crown in total.

Marquez defeated Dovizioso in a gripping last-lap duel at the Buriram circuit 12 months ago, gaining revenge on the reverse result he suffered to the Italian rider at the Austrian round earlier in the season, with a similar battle predicted at the second-ever Thailand MotoGP.

A repeat result would be enough to secure the riders’ title with four races to spare, but with the Repsol Honda rider refusing to change his approach in Thailand expect more of the same from the 26-year-old who is compiling a stunning set of statistics this season.

With victory in Aragon, Marquez has now achieved at least eight GP wins per season in five different year – matching the same feat produced by Angel Nieto and Giacomo Agostini – with only Valentino Rossi scoring more with at least eight wins across eight different campaigns.

Over the last 23 races he has finished, Marquez has always been on the podium while that run includes 14 wins, nine second places and just one third place.

With Marquez’s momentum carrying him to the 2019 MotoGP world title, when realistically it is a matter of when rather than if he can clinch the championship, Dovizioso has already switched his mindset to preparing for a 2020 title tilt as Ducati looks to counter against Honda over the winter.

But with race victories on offer it won’t stop spirited challengers attempting to spoil Marquez’s party at the Thai track which hosted a thrilling maiden MotoGP race 12 months ago.

With the multiple long straights in the first section of the 4.554km circuit, Honda, Ducati and KTM will look to gallop clear with higher horsepower and top speed while the superior cornering and handling of the Yamaha and Suzuki packages is catered for in the twisty middle sector.

That goes some way to explain how three different manufacturers were represented on the podium last year, with four brands inside the top six overall split by a little over three seconds at the chequered flag.

Curiously, at this year’s Austrian MotoGP the same statistic stands out with three different brands on the rostrum, while five manufacturers claimed places inside the top eight, and something similar should be expected as Michelin is providing the same ‘special’ tyre range this weekend that it used at the Red Bull Ring.

Rins hopes to repeat 2018 flyaway form

Alex Rins truly rose to prominence for Suzuki 12 months ago during the Asia quartet of races thanks to a pair of podiums to propel himself to fifth place in the final standings.

After a forgettable pair of rounds at Misano (DNF) and Aragon (ninth place), including a wild opening lap at his home race colliding with both his team-mate Joan Mir and Petronas Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli, Rins will know second place in the overall MotoGP standings is slipping away with a 46-point gap ballooning between himself and Dovizioso.

2019 still promises to be Suzuki’s best-ever MotoGP campaign but Rins must rediscover his form with the GSX-RR, while a major priority will be a strong qualifying performance having been both his and Mir’s Achilles heel all season as a poor starting position has often given both riders to do much to in the early stages of races getting tangled up in fights when the front-runners can push ahead.

Can the real Petrucci come back?

While Rins is enduring a sticky patch it is a blip compared to Danilo Petrucci’s problems since returning to action since the summer break.

The Italian rider is the only MotoGP challenger to score points in every race so far this season, suffering just two non-scores in his last 33 races in total, but since his summer holidays the factory Ducati rider’s best showing has been a lowly seventh place at Silverstone – when both team-mate Dovizioso and Fabio Quartararo tumbled out of the race at the first corner.

Grip over a race distance has been to blame for Petrucci, while his qualifying pace has also dropped remarkably over recent rounds, resulting in him slipping backwards in the MotoGP points standings.

Over the same period his team-mate has enjoyed contrasting fortunes, albeit with disappointment at Silverstone and Misano for separate reasons, while Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller is also starting to consistently get the better of Petrucci.

The 28-year-old needs to hit the reset button and rediscover the performances which gained him a run of three consecutive podiums including a memorable maiden victory at Mugello earlier this season.

MotoGP’s brave new world returns

Following the successful introduction of the Thailand MotoGP event, which was voted the best race of 2018 by paddock insiders, this weekend’s race is expected to surpass the 220,000 total attendance gained last year as South-East Asia’s appetite for two-wheel motorsport continues to grow.

Slotting into the final part of the region’s rainy season brings the threat of heavy downpours, despite the 2018 event being held in blisteringly hot and sunny conditions, while in dry conditions the track looks to offer something for almost all manufacturers.

This year’s race also marks the final time for the foreseeable future the Thailand round will be part of the end-of-season flyaway rounds as for 2020 it slots into a late March position to host the second round of the 2020 MotoGP world championship.

If the MotoGP title is to be wrapped up in Thailand, it is now or never for the Chang International Circuit and would act as a useful boost for the sport’s youngest race.



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