Valentino Rossi gets the first of two chances to claim his seventh MotoGP title during this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
The Italian, chasing his ninth world championship in all three classes, more than doubled his advantage over Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo after the young Spaniard crashed out at the first turn of last Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.
Although unable to win the Phillip Island race, second for Rossi increased his points lead from 18 to 38 points - and means he can prevent a last round Valencia showdown, the kind he lost to Nicky Hayden in 2006, by leaving Sepang with a lead of at least 25 points on Sunday.
In other words, even if Lorenzo wins, Rossi can finish fourth and still be champion. Lorenzo is Rossi's only remaining title rival.
"Phillip Island was like gold dust for us in terms of points and now we go to Malaysia, another of my favourite tracks, with our first 'match point',” said Rossi, who has won at Sepang in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008.
“Of course anything can happen but it's a great track for me and generally the Yamaha works well there so we have a good chance.
“We worked brilliantly in Australia and we know that if we can do the same at Sepang then we can have another good weekend.
“There is no chance to relax - everyone is focused, motivated and excited now that we are at this stage and our number one target for the weekend is to try to close out the championship.
“We will do our best and see where we are on Sunday night,” he concluded.
Team manager Davide Brivio confirmed that strategy will be the same as at Phillip Island - one eye on the title, but still try to win the race.
“We have a 38-point lead but we will have the same tactic as in Australia - one eye on the title and one eye on trying to win the race if possible,” he said. “It's going to be an exciting weekend for everyone."
Ducati's Casey Stoner won last weekend in Australia and is also expected to be in contention this weekend, having beaten Rossi to the top spot during the pre-season test at Sepang.