Motegi, Japan - Honda's Marc Marquez gets his first chance to seal the 2016 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 team-mate Jorge Lorenzo is fourth or worse.
But Marquez has never won at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, known for its hard braking and acceleration.
With 100 points still up for grabs, the championship race could extend to one of 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 ground in Valencia, Spain.
Marquez will be buoyed by memories of his 2014 second place at Motegi that clinched his first MotoGP title and is looking to go one better this year.
“The triple-header always marks a demanding period in the season,” Marquez said. “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.”
After Motegi, riders will travel to Phillip Island and Sepang; 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-times 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 in 2016.
“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 2015.
“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.
Maverick Vinales won the British GP, marking the first victory for Suzuki since 2007.
Andrea Iannone, who will skip Motegi due to a fractured vertebra, won in Austria to give Ducati its first victory since 2010.
There were two other Honda successes with Australia's Jack Miller winning at Assen and Cal Crutchlow taking the chequered flag in Brno.