Honda’s Marc Marquez gets his first chance to seal this year’s MotoGP world championship on Sunday in Japan.
The two-time world champion from Spain has a 52-point gap over his closest rival, Valentino Rossi.
He would claim the season trophy if he wins and if the Italian finishes 15th or lower and if third-placed Jorge Lorenzo comes in fourth or worse.
“We will try to have the same mentality” as other races, said Marquez, who has never won at the Motegi circuit, which is known for its hard braking and acceleration.
The Spaniard said he was focused on the race at hand since “many, many things” would have to work in his favour for him to lock the season victory in Japan, with 100 points still up for grabs.
“My riding style is not so bad. But our bike struggles a little bit every year here. We will see during this weekend…and try to take points for the championship. That will be most important,” Marquez said.
– Triple-header –
Sunny weather is expected for the race in cool, mountainous Motegi, as teams readied to build their concentration through three weekends of successive races in different time zones and climates in the Asian “triple-header”, which also takes them to Australia and Malaysia.
The championship could still go to the wire at the season finale back on Marquez’s home soil in Spain, as this unpredictable season has yielded an incredible eight different grand prix winners so far.
With a successful track record in Japan, Yamaha’s Rossi is hungry for more wins to close the gap following four-straight podium finishes.
The nine-time world champion said the triple-header is “always complicated” as a small problem in Motegi could turn into greater risks further down the line.
But riders could also build their concentration in the race series and improve their performance, said Rossi.
“You stay on the bike a lot of time, so you can go faster and faster. Also, those are three fantastic tracks,” Rossi said, adding that Yamaha machines have traditionally fared well in Motegi.
Reigning champion Lorenzo was aiming to overcome the 14-point deficit to his Yamaha teammate before ending his successful nine seasons with the Japanese manufacturer and switching to Ducati next year.
Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, fourth in the championship, has won three times at Motegi.
“We need to see how the tyre will suit the track,” he said, after spending a day testing on the 4.8-kilometre (3-mile) track.
But the top big four riders are not out of the woods, as this year has made space for others to grab their first race wins and take podium finishes.
Spaniard Maverick Vinales won the British GP, marking the first victory for Suzuki since 2007.
Italy’s Andrea Iannone will skip Motegi due to a vertebra fracture. He won in Austria for Ducati, their first win since 2010.
There were two other Honda successes with Australia’s Jack Miller winning in Assen and Cal Crutchlow taking the chequered flag in Brno. – Agence France-Presse