By Neil Morrison
As at Silverstone, Marc Marquez proved his mettle by recovering from a heavy morning fall to finish second at the penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship at Motegi.
But it wasn't enough to secure the world title and the rookie now faces a final round showdown with reigning double champion Jorge Lorenzo at Valencia.
20-year old Marquez cited a cold tyre as the reason for the morning accident, which left him with “mild neck and back pain.” He had nonetheless returned to set a close third fastest lap time in the extended session - his first dry track time on a MotoGP bike at Motegi - before lining up on the grid for his second attempt to become the youngest ever MotoGP champion.
With Lorenzo taking advantage of his extra soft rear tyre in the opening laps, Marquez then closed to within 0.2secs of the Yamaha rider. He remained locked to Lorenzo's rear wheel for much of the race and seemed to be lining up a move at the downhill turn 11, only to run wide at the exit of the corner.
Lorenzo then upped his pace and, after running wide on several further occasions, Marquez realised a safe second place was his best option and finished 3.2s behind.
“That second place is so important,” he said. “At the beginning of the race I was struggling a little bit. It was a difficult race for me because I was already struggling this morning after a big crash. But especially because it was my first time in this track and on the brake points I was struggling quite a lot.
“In the race I tried to follow Jorge and we did a very good job because we were there in the middle of the race. It looked like we were stronger but in the end I saw that Jorge pushed a little bit more.
“I felt that I was too much on the limit and I saw there was too much risk and I say 'ok, 20 points for the championship' and there will be another race in Valencia that will certainly be interesting.”
The result trims his championship lead to 13 points, meaning a fourth place finish at Valencia would be sufficient to crown him champion even if Lorenzo wins.
“I must focus on my job and my bike and do my best in Valencia. We can't forget it's my first season and it [winning the title] wasn't my target at the start of the season. But I will try my best for sure,” said Marquez, who has stood on the podium in every race he has finished this year.