New MotoGP title leader Marc Marquez will face perhaps the biggest challenge of his rookie season this weekend at Laguna Seca.
The 20-year-old retook the championship advantage with his second win of the year last Sunday in Germany, having taken his first premier-class victory at the previous US round in Texas.
However Marquez has never raced at the tight, twisty and undulating Laguna Seca circuit and, unlike at the inaugural Austin round, he also has no previous testing knowledge of the track.
Nevertheless, with Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha's reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo below full fitness after their Sachsenring injuries, Marquez stands an excellent chance of increasing his advantage heading into the summer break.
"I am feeling really good at the moment. Even though the victory in Germany didn't feel the same as Austin, because Dani and Jorge were not there, I am still so happy with the result,” said the 20-year-old.
“Now we go to Laguna Seca with no time to rest. Everybody says it's a nice track but very technical. I've never ridden there so we will start to work hard from the first moment we arrive to learn the lines. From what I understand there are many blind points where you cannot see the racing line.
“Anyway, as always we will try our best and see what we can do.”
With ten races still remaining, Marquez has already equalled the achievements of Max Biaggi, Valentino Rossi, Freddie Spencer, Luca Cadalora and Pedrosa by taking two victories in his rookie premier-class season. The last rider to take more than two wins in his rookie season was Kenny Roberts, who won four times in 1978 on his way to winning the 500cc world title.
Marquez has more podiums than any other rider so far this season, having stood on the rostrum in seven out of the eight races. The young Spaniard fell from second place late in the Italian round.
After his win in Austin, Marquez had joint leadership of the championship, which he kept until Pedrosa moved ahead at round four (Le Mans).
Marquez now holds a slim two-point lead over Pedrosa, with Lorenzo eleven points from the top.