MotoGP turned-up the heat again for the final stage of the penultimate triple-header in 2023 and the fourth Thai Grand Prix that brought the world championship into the suffocating climes of the Chang International Circuit. Around the fast 4.5km course, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing sprinted to the podium in the Saturday chase with Brad Binder registering his sixth Sprint top three of the year with the KTM RC16.
Red Bull KTM came to Thailand with positive memories of a wet weather victory last year and were encouraged after the improved performance experienced by the team in the wind-hit Australian round the previous weekend. Buriram promised vastly different circumstances for the third Grand Prix in a row with 30+degrees temperatures, roasting asphalt and hard braking and acceleration on the menu compared to the free-flowing layout in Phillip Island.
On a sunny Friday both Binder and Miller found lap-times to head into direct Q2 contention during the Practice session during the afternoon. In the final minutes the flying attempts hit the screens and the pair classified 9th and 13th respectively. Just half a second divided the first 18 riders! While Miller was fractionally distant from the mark in Q1 (meaning 15th on the start grid) Binder was vying for a front row slot until the final minute and the last barrage of flying attempts. He finished Q2 in 5th.
Saturday dawned hot but with more clouds and the possibility of a brief shower. The MotoGP Sprint lasted for 13 laps. Binder, who qualified on the fourth row in 2022 for what was his first time here in the MotoGP class, had a view of the track from the second line on this occasion. He seared into the top four and then had to fight for most of the race distance to pass Luca Marini for 2nd place. Once through he tried to close the gap to Jorge Martin and narrowed the margin to just under a second at the finish line. The result marked the fourth time that Brad as taken P2 in MotoGP Sprints this season and he is the third most successful rider on Grand Prix Saturdays thus far.
Miller formed part of some hectic battles further down the field and managed to defeat Fabio Quartararo to make the top ten, while being the only rider to experiment with the harder front tire compound. European fans will have to set the alarm clocks (aware of the daylight saving time!) for 09.00 CEST to catch the full 26 laps on Sunday.
Brad Binder, 5th in qualification, 2nd in the Sprint: “The plan was not to come 2nd but to win today but we’ll take it. In the beginning I really struggled to get past Luca and once I’d made it I’d already used the best of my tires. It was a tricky one but my team did a fantastic job and made a good step for me this weekend; we just need that last little bit and we can do something better.”
Jack Miller, 15th in qualification, 10th in the Sprint: “Not bad, not great. We tried our maximum but where we were starting from made things a bit complicated. We were able to fight back through. 10th is not what we want but I feel that our pace is not that bad for tomorrow. We were the only ones on the hard tire so that might benefit us. We have some good data now and that will help for tomorrow,”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “Another good weekend so far. Brad went to Q2 directly yesterday and this is becoming the norm now, which is positive. Jack went into Q1 and it is always a bit tricky. He didn’t get the right moment or the right lap. The Sprint was fantastic for Brad and he deserved another podium after a long fight. Another medal and good preparation for tomorrow’s race. Jack struggled a bit on the first lap and was a few seconds behind the leaders. He had good pace compared to what he had in practice so that was another step. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s race.”
- From KTM Factory Racing