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MARQUEZ’ FIRST ATTEMPT AT MOTOGP GLORY | MotoGP | Sport

He’s done the hard yards, and now Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) saddles up for his first attempt at winning the 2016 MotoGP world title in Japan on October 16.

Marquez has to leave the Honda-owned Motegi circuit 76pts ahead of his nearest challenger – most likely Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) – to clinch his third world title, which would be an improbable event with both of them almost certainly battling at the front of the pack.

Obviously, Marquez’ best chance of becoming world champion would be with a victory, adding to the six that Honda has already won at the 4.8km layout. However, Marquez has never won a premier class race at Motegi, a demanding layout with its stop-and-go nature.

If Marquez does take the chequered flag, Rossi would have to finish 15th or worse for him to clinch the title – highly unlikely. Rossi has only finished outside the top 10 in 13 MotoGP races, and the only time he finished outside the points was a 16th place at Le Mans way back in 2009.

If Marquez doesn’t win the title in Japan, it will remain on ice until Phillip Island the following weekend – which would be a boon for Aussie spectators.

Despite all the title-winning permutations, Marquez isn’t having anything of it, preferring to concentrate on the task at hand. He said: “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 mind-set we have kept throughout this season.

“The Japanese Grand Prix is an important appointment for us as it is Honda’s home race and one where we have great memories, as we clinched the title in 2014. On the other hand, it’s a circuit that has always been a bit challenging for us.

“So for example, if Aragon was a track that I marked for attacking, Motegi is one that I marked for giving up as few points as possible. That said, we’ll approach it with an open mentality, aiming for the best result possible but ready to adapt to the circumstances.”

Meanwhile, for Yamaha and Suzuki it’s also a ‘home’ round in Japan – but the fact that Honda owns Motegi doesn’t make it a completely warm and fuzzy affair.

Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) is a crackerjack around Motegi though, with three MotoGP wins to his name and the current lap record. In 2015, he finished third behind a fast-finishing Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Rossi.

Lorenzo is still in the mathematical zone to win the championship, but he’d just about require a miracle over the last four rounds – the three ‘flyaways’ in Japan, Australia and Malaysia, and then back to Spain to complete proceedings.

Lorenzo’s on 182pts, a long way behind Marquez (248) but within touch of Rossi (196) – who he would dearly love to usurp by year’s end with the pair’s relationship having soured appreciably in recent months.

Meanwhile, Pedrosa has the most GP wins at Motegi with five: three in MotoGP, one in 250cc and one in 125cc.

Ducati, like Yamaha, is also a four-time winner at Motegi, with its last success via Aussie Casey Stoner in 2010. The recent barren period is likely to continue, with Andrea Iannone to miss as he continues to recover from a T3 vertebra fracture, leaving only Andrea Dovizioso to fly the factory flag.

Instead, Maverick Vinales (Ecstar Suzuki) shapes as more of a spoiler on his GSX-RR, and if he can maintain decent rear grip at the business end of the race he could be right in the mix.

Suzuki was unbeatable in the first two years of MotoGP action at Motegi in 1999 and 2000, with Kenny Roberts Junior winning on his 500cc two-stroke machine.

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) is the best of the ‘rest’ based on current standings, as well as being the leading Independent Team Rider. Pol Espargarò (Monster Yamaha tech 3) trails Crutchlow in that battle, while Australia’s Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0, Marc VDS Honda) returns to action after sitting out the last few rounds with fractures in his right hand. And he’s after a morale-boosting performance ahead of his home round.

“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 mind-set we have kept throughout this season,” said Miller. “The Japanese Grand Prix is an important appointment for us as it is Honda’s home race and one where we have great memories, as we clinched the title in 2014.

“On the other hand, it’s a circuit that has always been a bit challenging for us. So for example, if Aragon was a track that I marked for attacking, Motegi is one that I marked for giving up as few points as possible. That said, we’ll approach it with an open mentality, aiming for the best result possible but ready to adapt to the circumstances.”

Yamaha star and Suzuka 8-Hour winning rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga will be a wildcard at Motegi, while Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) also returns from injury.

By Australian Grand Prix