Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Sharifah Zaqreeztrina
Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing returns to Asia after a quick hop across the Pacific to the land down under as MotoGP heads to Buriram, Thailand for round 17 of 20 in the 2023 World Championship. It is now well and truly crunch time.
Hosting the riders is the 12 corner, 4.5-kilometre Tilkedrome, aptly named after the province of its location, the Buriram International Circuit. A clockwise circuit that turns right seven times, the Buriram International Circuit is a quintessential modern day racing circuit with several hard braking zones and a long back straight between turns 1 and 3, including a small kink in between which is the second corner. Marc Márquez holds the all time lap record but not much will be expected of the Spaniard come race weekend.
Heading into Buriram, Francesco Bagnaia leads Jorge Martin by 27 points.
The defending world champion has, despite a few mistakes, put up a staunch defence of his crown. It hasn't been smooth sailing for the Italian who momentarily lost the championship lead to Martin in Indonesia but has since then pulled clear of the hard charging Martin, capitalising on a tyre gamble by the No. 89 rider that did not pay off last time out in Phillip Island. The consistency from Bagnaia going back to the start of the season has kept the Italian in front.
On the other hand, Martin's recent pace has been electric and unmatchable. A slew of pole positions, sprint and Grand Prix wins have put him in contention. However, costly mistakes have put him on the back foot with four rounds to go.
The championship pendulum has swung both ways since the beginning of the Asia-Pacific leg of the championship. Martin seems to have the outright pace of the two contenders but it has been Bagnaia who's taken home the points when it matters most. Predictions for the Grand Prix would be a futile attempt.