Tokyo - 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 built a 52-point
gap over his closest rival Valentino Rossi, and would claim the season trophy if
he wins and if the Italian legend finishes 15th or lower on his Yamaha and his
third-placed teammate Jorge Lorenzo is fourth or worse.
But Marquez has never won at the Motegi circuit, known for
its hard braking and acceleration.
With 100 points still up for grabs, the championship race
could extend to one the other legs in the Asian "triple-header" - Australia and Malaysia.
There have been eight different grand prix winners in an
unpredictable season so far and the championship could still go to the wire at
the season finale back on Marquez's home soil in Valencia, Spain.
Marquez will be buoyed by memories of his 2014 second place
at Motegi which locked out his first MotoGP championship and is looking to go
one better this year.
"The triple-header always marks a demanding period in
the season because there are three races in a row in different time zones and
different conditions, so we must handle them calmly and with the same mindset
we have kept throughout this season," Marquez said.
After Motegi, riders will travel to Phillip Island and
Sepang and Yamaha's Rossi is hungry for more wins to close the gap, following
four straight podium finishes.
"I'm especially happy to go to Japan because it is the
home of Yamaha and I will do my best to make it a good Grand Prix," said
the nine-time world champion.
Reigning champion Lorenzo wants to overcome the 14-point
deficit to his Yamaha team-mate before he ends his successful nine seasons with
the Japanese manufacturer and switches to Ducati next year.
"For the points, I think we have much more chance to
finish trying to fight for the second place than winning the
championship," Lorenzo said.
Honda's Dani Pedrosa, fourth in the championship, has won
three times at Motegi, including last year.
"At this moment, the most important thing is to find
the best combination between the tyres and the bike, with myself also in the
formula of course, to try and start to go well beginning Friday," he said.
Four riders clinched their maiden MotoGP wins this season.
Spaniard Maverick Vinales won the British GP, marking the
first victory for Suzuki since 2007.
Italy's Andrea Iannone, who will skip Motegi due to a
vertebra fracture, won in Austria to 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.