The 2015 MotoGP title fight could be heading for a thrilling three-way showdown.
That's the view of championship leaders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, who insist that Marc Marquez is more than capable of bridging a massive 65-point deficit during the second half of the season, starting at Indianapolis this weekend.
“I think yes, because at the beginning of the season Marc had some problem with the feeling with the bike and lost some points in the first part, but from Assen he came back very strong,” explained Rossi, when asked if Marquez is a real title contender.
“So for sure the [points] distance is still quite a lot, but we are just in the middle of the season, nine races to the end is a long way.”
Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo, who currently trails Rossi by 13-points, added that Marquez's run of ten straight wins last season proves a comeback is more than possible.
“We didn't put him away, ever, out of the fight for the championship,” Lorenzo said. “I think he is able to win a lot of races in a row as he demonstrated last year. With nine races to the end he can recover a lot of points or we can make mistakes. So for sure he's one of the favourites for the championship.”
Marquez is certainly not ruling himself out.
“Of course 65 points are a lot, but you know I lose in the first part of the season, maybe they can lose in the second part!” smiled the Repsol Honda rider. “It is not easy. I know it is a big distance but we will try to focus like the last two races. Try to do our best, try to push at the limit and then we will see what happens.”
Having struggled for rear-wheel control under braking on the 2015 RCV, Marquez has been in victory contention since switching to his 2014 chassis for the last two rounds. The reigning double champion lost out to Rossi in a final corner showdown at Assen, then dominated the German GP weekend for only his second win of the season.
“Of course last year's situation was much better. But okay the most important is that now I am enjoying on the bike,” he said. “Since last year in Valencia, or Malaysia in the pre-season, was difficult to find this feeling.
“In Holland I find this feeling and these last two races I've enjoyed a lot so I hope to continue enjoying on the bike and then the results will come. Just I think race by race and we will see in Valencia what is my [championship] situation.”
Marquez further increased his comfort level during a private test at Misano at the start of the summer break.
“These last races were much better and the break in the middle of the season arrived at the point where I wanted more and more races! But okay. We did a test in Misano that was also important to change some things on the bike and it looks like it is better,” he confirmed.
“I will continue with the 2014 frame. We tried some different things and it was good to get information for next year's bike. Apart from the chassis we changed other small things that looks like helps a lot, but at this level it is difficult to find two tenths, or even one tenth, but I'm happy because we found some really small things that helped a little bit.”
Marquez has never lost a MotoGP race on US soil, winning three times in Austin, twice at Indy and once at Laguna Seca. The Repsol Honda star is seeking his fifth Indy win in a row, having been unbeaten at the circuit since winning the 2011 Moto2 race.
“It is a good circuit for us. Okay since last year Yamaha is much closer because they change the layout, but anyway I think we can do a good weekend.”
Meanwhile Rossi's only Indianapolis victory came in the inaugural 2008 race, which was halted early due to Hurricane Ike. It marked Rossi's 69th premier-class win, beating Giacomo Agostini's all-time record that had stood for 32 years.
Now a winner of 85 premier-class races, including three this season, The Doctor has only returned to the Indy podium once in the form of last season's third place.
“This track is not one of my favourites but last year was a good race,” he said. “I think the first 10 laps were the most exciting of 2014, with a lot of bikes and riders and hard battles. In the second half of the race I wasn't strong enough to stay with Marc and Jorge but anyway I finish on the podium after a long time.
“Usually in the past this track is a little bit better for Honda and especially for Marc. Last year we were happy because we put the two M1s on the podium, not very far behind. But now it is another season and every weekend is a different story.”