Valencia - Spain's Marc Marquez is poised to wrap up a
fourth world MotoGP title on Sunday, an achievement which appeared a
long-distance dream in the first half of the season.
The 24-year-old Honda rider, who was world champion in the
premier class in 2013, 2014 and 2016, watched as Yamaha's Maverick Vinales
romped to victory in three of the first five races.
He was even down in fourth spot in the standings after old
rival Valentino Rossi won in the Netherlands.
But the second half of the season has been monopolised by
Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso on a Ducati.
Five of Marquez'six wins in 2017 have come since the Assen
race as Yamaha fell dramatically off the pace.
Dovizioso also has six wins to his name but Marquez heads
for Spain with a 21-point advantage meaning he only has to finish in the top 11
on Sunday to again be crowned world champion.
"Of course it will be natural to feel some pressure in
Valencia with so much at stake, but honestly there has been pressure for the
entire second part of the season," said Marquez whose attempts to wrap up
the title in rain-swept Malaysia two weeks ago were thwarted by a fourth-place
"The fact that we've been able to manage some tricky
situations, as was the case at the last race in Malaysia, gives me a positive
"Regarding the track, I feel good because I like
Valencia. It's an anti-clockwise circuit, which normally suits me. Of course
it's also good to have a points advantage to manage.
"That said, we won't think too much about any of those
things. We definitely don't think it will be easy, so we won't go to Valencia
with any extra confidence."
The 31-year-old Dovizioso has been a sensation in a season
in which his Ducati team-mate and former world champion Jorge Lorenzo was
expected to be the outfit's go-to rider.
But the Italian has completely overshadowed the Spaniard
with Dovizioo even getting the better of Lorenzo in Malaysia in Ducati's only
one-two finish in 2017.
"What Marquez did this season is incredible,"
admitted Dovizioso, wary of Sunday's mission impossible which confronts him.
For Yamaha, the campaign has tailed off even if Vinales has
the consolation of already being assured third place in the standings.
Teammate and seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi, who suffered
a double leg fracture earlier in the season before returning to the saddle
three weeks after surgery, is fourth overall although Honda's Dani Pedrosa can
still pip him on a circuit where he has traditionally thrived.
Pedrosa has six career wins at Valencia - three in MotoGP,
two in 250cc, and one in the 125cc class.
World championship standings ahead of Sunday's Valencia MotoGP, the final round of the 2017 series:
1. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 282 points, 2. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 261, 3. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 226, 4. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 197, 5. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) 185, 6. Johann Zarco (FRA/Yamaha) 154, 7. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Ducati) 116, 8. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati) 121, 9. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda) 104, 10. Jonas Folger (GER/Yamaha) 84.
1. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Kalex) 288 points, 2. Thomas Luthi (SUI/Kalex) 243, 3. Miguel Oliveira (POR/KTM) 216, 4. Alex Marquez (ESP/Kalex) 190, 5. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Kalex) 161, 6. Mattia Pasini (ITA/Kalex) 148, 7. Takaaki Nakagami (JPN/Kalex) 128, 8. Simone Corsi (ITA/Speed Up) 110, 9. Brad Binder (RSA/KTM) 109, 10. Xavi Vierge (SPA/tECH 3) 98
1. Joan Mir (ESP/Honda) 321 points, 2. Romano Fenati (ITA/Honda) 235, 3. Aron Canet (ESP/Honda) 192, 4. Jorge Martin (ESP/Honda) 171, 5. Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA/Honda) 153, 6. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Honda) 130, 7. John McPhee (GBR/Honda) 123, 8. Andrea Migno (ITA/KTM) 103, 9. Marcos Ramirez (ESP/KTM) 107, 10. Philipp Oettl (GER/KTM) 104