It is testament to the quality of Valentino Rossi's riding this season that he comes to the latest round of MotoGP at Motegi in a very good position to secure his sixth world title, four races from its conclusion.
Victory at Indianapolis raises Rossi's advantage over Casey Stoner to 87 points and with only 100 points remaining this season, few would want to bet against the Italian from completing his endeavour in Japan.
So what exactly is required of Rossi this weekend? Perhaps the result he will be aiming for is a podium as third place will be enough for the title, regardless of what Stoner does. Failing that, should Stoner finish second, Rossi needs eighth or better, falling to 12th or 15th if the Ducati rider can manage no better than third or fourth.
The odds are certainly in Rossi's favour, not least because he has finished off the podium just twice in 14 races this season. Furthermore, Rossi has won six podiums at Motegi alone, while Stoner has had none.
Of course, it won't have escaped Stoner's notice that he could lose his crown at the very circuit he won it last season, but he will certainly be up against it this weekend. Admitting to struggling with his hand injury in the United States, the twists and turns of Motegi are unlikely to help much either.
If anything, he may spend the weekend keeping a watching brief on Dani Pedrosa, who comes to Honda's home circuit (they built it to host IndyCar races) desperate for a good result. Having made his Bridgestone-shod pneumatic-valve Honda debut at Indianapolis, the only way is up for the Spaniard and if HRC are going to pull out all the stops to win a race in a season, it will be here.
He too though is coming under increasing pressure in the overall standings from Jorge Lorenzo, who appears to have ridden out the storm of his injury-riddled mid-season, with a pair of good results at Misano and Indianapolis. Although he remains a fair 37 points adrift of countryman Pedrosa in the standings, should the Honda man continue to take time to adapt to his new machine, it could spur Lorenzo on to catch him.
Andrea Dovizioso was another rider to star at Indianapolis after leading early on and while he has lost ground to Lorenzo in the battle for fourth place overall, he still strengthened his position of fifth in the standings. With Honda rumoured to be confirming the Italian to their 2009 rider line-up this weekend, the bonus of having pressure off could help both him and the JiR Team Scot outfit to great things.
Beyond the top five, good performances are also expected from elsewhere in the field, not least from Loris Capirossi, winner at Motegi for the last three seasons.