Thomas Luthi may be the man standing between him and this year’s Moto2 world title, but Franco Morbidelli has spoken highly of the Swiss rider, even going as far as saying he used to cheer him on before he joined the class.

Morbidelli and Luthi, who will both compete in MotoGP in 2018 aboard Marc VDS Hondas, have been engaged in an intriguing title battle throughout the year, with the Italian gaining vital victories at the Assen and Aragon that cemented his championship lead after costly crashes at Jerez and Misano undermined his postion.

The pair fly to Japan for the 15th of this season’s 18 races separated by 21 points after Morbidelli’s imperious showing at Aragon – his eighth triumph of the year -, while Luthi could do no better than fourth.

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But the Swiss rider has pedigree at each of the three flyaway races. Not only did he win at Motegi and Phillip Island a year ago, he has scored three Moto2 podiums at Sepang too, including a tight win against Stefan Bradl in 2011.

And Morbidelli has spoken of both he and Luthi practicing “completely different philosophies of racing,” with the Italian amassing an impressive number of victories across the year, opposed to Luthi’s model consistency. The 31-year old has only finished outside the top four twice in 14 races.

“I think I showed that I have speed and I can win races,” Morbidelli said in a recent interview with Crash.net. “Tom showed that he also has speed in races and he’s constant, he’s consistent. I think that it’s nice. We are two completely different philosophies of racing and philosophies of approaching the races, but we’re both on the top.

“It’s going to be two riders, but also two states of minds, two moments in life, because he’s also a bit older than me. Also, two ways of racing, fighting together. I think it will be nice.”

On his relationship with his title rival, Morbidelli only had positive things to say: “He’s a great person,” he said. “He’s a great rider. I used to cheer for him when I was watching races [before his arrival to Moto2 in 2014], you know?

“I remember in my first year when I came here to Moto2, he was already really nice with me. So I really like him and I always liked him. Now it’s a great thing to fight for the championship with him. I feel good.

“I was expecting more people fighting for the championship this year, like at least me, Alex [Marquez], [Miguel] Oliveira and Tom. And also [Lorenzo] Baldassarri. Everyone was expecting Baldassarri but for some reason he didn’t make a good championship in the first part so he’s a bit far behind now.

“But here we are. We are two; me and Tom. I’m in a moment where I just have to keep focussed on me and go ahead. I was hoping that I could arrive at this point in the championship and still be fighting. Here I am and I will continue!”

Likewise, Luthi’s team boss Fred Corminboeuf recently told Crash.net the Interwetten team is targeting the three flyaway races as an excellent chance to claw back points.

Explaining the reasons behind Luthi’s strongest season in the Moto2 class to date, Corminboeuf said, “The relationship with his crew chief of two years [Gilles Bigot] now is perfect. Thomas has got experience. He is a very smart guy and a strong guy. He knows how to win. He knows how to be on the podium. He knows how to not be too stupid, and to stay on the wheels to make fourth of fifth if he needs to.

“We have all the conditions except we have [Franco] Morbidelli, a very, very strong rider. For the rest, we are completely fit in the championship. Yes, it’s a good time. It’s the right crew, the right time, a good rider and a good bike. Everything fits well.

“We were 53 points behind the leader after Misano last year. Now after Misano we are only nine points behind Morbidelli. Until the last two races we were fighting for the title with Zarco. Now we are completely involved and I expect Tom to make the difference in the last four races. In the end I expect a lot from the overseas races.”

Click here to read the full exclusive interview with Franco Morbidelli.

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A nice frank interview with a rider who shows respect for his competitors.

I like that fact that whoever takes the title, they will both be in MotoGP next year so they can continue their battles against each other on an even playing field as rookies

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