Having increased his MotoGP World Championship lead to 87 points, Valentino Rossi is on the brink of clinching his sixth 500cc/MotoGP title in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
In short, Rossi will be crowned world champion with three rounds remaining if he finishes third or better at Motegi and, with only 100 points still up for grabs, it is very much a question of 'when' rather than 'if' the Fiat Yamaha star wraps up the title.
Rossi won five consecutive 500cc/MotoGP World Championships between 2001 and 2005, the first three with Honda and last two with Yamaha. The Doctor's sixth will mark the following achievements:
• Rossi would become only the second rider to regain the premier-class title after a two year gap - the other rider to do so being Giacomo Agostini.
• It would be Rossi's sixth premier-class title - one more than Mick Doohan. Only Giacomo Agostini with eight titles will have won the premier-class championship on more occasions.
• It would be Rossi's eighth world title across all GP classes. Only Agostini with 15, Angel Nieto with 13, Mike Hailwood and Carlos Ubbiali with nine titles each have won more world championships.
• There will be an eleven year period spanning the time from Rossi's first world title in the 125cc class in 1997 and this year. The only rider with a longer period between first and last world titles is Angel Nieto who won his first in the 50cc class in 1969 and his last in the 125cc class in 1984.
Technically, third in the championship Dani Pedrosa still has a mathematical chance of the 2008 crown, sitting 94 points behind Rossi. This is what needs to happen, relative to Stoner and Pedrosa, for Rossi to lift the title on Sunday.
With reference to Stoner:
• If Stoner wins the race then Rossi needs to finish 3rd or better.
• If Stoner comes 2nd then Rossi needs to finish 8th or better.
• If Stoner finishes 3rd then Rossi needs to finish 12th or better.
• If Stoner finishes 4th then Rossi needs to finish in any point scoring position.
With reference to Pedrosa:
• If Pedrosa wins the race then Rossi needs to finish 10th or better.
• If Pedrosa comes 2nd then Rossi needs to finish in any point scoring position.
Although Rossi has finished on the podium on six previous occasions at Motegi, he has had just one victory - in 2001, riding the 500cc two-stroke Honda.
Motegi is thus the only circuit on the current grand prix calendar where Rossi has not taken a four-stroke MotoGP victory, but he heads into the 2008 event having won the last four races in a row – his longest winning streak since five in 2005.