Three rivals, four races: thoughts on the title fight
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Three rivals, four races: thoughts on the title fight
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Marquez, Dovizioso and Viñales face down the flyaways in the quest for the crown

The Pre-Event Press Conference for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan shone a key spotlight on the title fight – as can be expected with four races remaining and the top three still within 28 points. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) leads the way, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) 16 points back and Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) a further 12 behind the Italian. But 100 points remain on the table, and in an unpredictable 2017, anything can still happen – as Marquez pointed out.

“This Championship and all this season, we come here on Thursday and you don’t know who the opponent will be on Sunday,” says the reigning Champion. “You never know, so you need to work to find the best base, then on Sunday you’ll see where you can fight…”

Despite that unpredictable nature, however, Marquez has been on an incredible run since earlier in the summer – only missing the podium once and that through a mechanical problem at Silverstone. “I’m feeling good with the bike and that’s the most important,” continues the number 93. “The last results were pretty good, but every race is different and you need to keep the same mentality and do the same work, because there are still four races left. These three are very important, but we’ll try and do our best like we have until now – and try to push at the maximum.”

“To compete with these guys is difficult and they’re so strong,” says the Italian. “But If I’m here at this point it means I have my cards. I have a lot of experience, fortunately, although sometimes unfortunately because I’m older! But I think my experience has helped me this year to be fast in different conditions, and I’m quite good in a battle. I have my cards. I feel quite calm, I know very well what we’ve done this year. We’ve done almost everything perfectly. We’re at the end of the Championship and fighting with Honda and Yamaha and these two special riders, so that means we did a great job.”

The Ducati rider – already the first to score 200 points or more for the Borgo Panigale factory since Casey Stoner did it in 2010 – also echoed some sentiments from Marquez – especially the unpredictability: “Everybody will attack, but there are still a lot of points left and anything can happen. It will be a nice three races, with a race every Sunday! It will be important for everyone. I still think the Championship is quite tight. I think all three of us have a big chance to fight for the title and it’s so easy for the situation to change race by race.”

Whereas Marquez and Dovizioso pointed out the importance of the flyaways – with three races over three consecutive weekends – Viñales had something more to add: it’s actually something he prefers.

“I prefer three races in a row,” says the Yamaha rider. “And I’ve always been strong. I’ve had more positive moments in Australia and Malaysia, but I think our bike can work well over these races.”

The bike remains a key focus for the rider from Roses but he says they remain very competitive – and that he’ll push: “We are trying, giving our best and trying to improve the bike but I think we’re quite strong. We have to still work a lot on the bike for the race but I like this track a lot, and last year I felt strong here, especially in the race, and I’m eager to start. I’ll push at 100%.”

Four races, three contenders and 100 points – anything can happen in the Championship of 2017. But the next three weekends could shape the colour of the outcome irrevocably for some, and as Dovizioso says: everybody will attack.

Track action begins on Friday for practice, before 25 points go into play on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +9).

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12-10-2017, 02:04 PM
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