With a maximum of 175 points left to fight for this season, very few predictions at the start of the 2019 MotoGP campaign would have said the riders’ title fight would be all-but finished heading to Misano but it now needs a monumental turnaround to stop Marc Marquez.

Marquez may have been quietly simmering at losing back-to-back races in final-corner battles, to Andrea Dovizioso in Austria and Alex Rins in Great Britain, but the Repsol Honda rider has seen his championship lead swell to 78 points to take a firm grip on the title.

While Marquez was able to pile on 20 points at Silverstone coupled with Dovizioso’s first-corner tangle with Fabio Quartararo’s Petronas Yamaha after the French rider’s dramatic off, the reigning MotoGP world champion still holds the stunning record of taking first or second in every race he has finished so far this year.

Dovizioso must be wondering what he’s done to deserve such bad luck this year, with both his DNFs triggered by rivals crashing in incidents he wasn’t involved in, accounting for 55 points in the 78-point lead Marquez has over the Italian.

It puts the scale of Dovizioso’s task at an all-time high as Marquez could effectively take three races off and still lead the standings regardless of what his major rival can achieve.

As a result, Dovizioso and Ducati will both know any hopes of the 2019 title can only be prolonged with victory at Misano this weekend to start to eat into Marquez’s healthy points lead over the final seven races.

Misano has been a happy hunting ground for Dovizioso in recent years with a maiden premier class podium in 2017 before seeing off a late charge from team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and Marquez for victory last season.

But with Marquez a five-time winner across all classes at Misano, the most of any rider in the modern era, Dovizioso will have to face-off against his familiar foe when he really needs the Spaniard to be picking up as few points as possible between now and the end of the year.

Besides, given Marquez’s standout record at the next three races at Aragon, Buriram and Motegi, it is now or never for Dovizioso and Ducati for the MotoGP title in 2019.

Rossi returns looking for home comforts

Valentino Rossi will receive his customary hero’s welcome at Misano, which was kickstarted early on Tuesday with his tour through Tavullia, with the circuit’s grandstands set to be whitewashed in VR46 branding.

A special celebration for the 40-year-old will go into overdrive if the nine-time world champion can end his podium drought which has stretched out to nine races – going back to his second place at the Circuit of the Americas in April.

Back-to-back fourth places coming into this weekend acts as timely momentum, even if his Silverstone race became restrained by rear grip issues which saw his team-mate Maverick Vinales escape to reach the rostrum, as the battle for top dog status at Yamaha intensifies.

All eyes will also be on the Yamaha garage to see if the Iwata factory continues with its 2020 developments. Both Rossi and Vinales tried out a new carbon fibre swingarm, exhaust system and upgraded engine at the recent two-day Misano test, with the swingarm and exhaust expected to be run again to provide comparison testing data.

“We had some interesting things to try and it was a good day of tests, because I was quite strong all day,” Rossi said at the test.

“We started with the 2020 bike and afterwards we worked on this year’s bike, which also had some different things. All the stuff was quite good and our pace was not so bad.”

Can the Rins revival continue?

After back-to-back DNFs at Assen and Sachsenring, Alex Rins looked to have derailed his own MotoGP campaign going into the summer break but solid returns at Brno (fourth) and the Red Bull Ring (sixth) gave the Spaniard some much-needed momentum.

The Suzuki rider then produced a stunning performance to beat Marquez at the final corner at Silverstone to clinch his second victory of the year.

Propelling himself up to third place in the MotoGP riders’ standings, while his title bid looks over with a 101-point deficit to Marquez, Rins will be full of confidence to continue to fight for wins over the rest of the season as he looks to finish off his and Suzukis’ strongest-ever MotoGP season.

Maverick Vinales (2016) and John Hopkins (2007) both share that honour having finished fourth in the final MotoGP riders’ standings but with Rins currently in third and 23 points off Dovizioso in second, the Spaniard has an excellent opportunity to deliver Suzuki its best campaign to date.

Fenati’s infamous return

Romano Fenati will return to Misano for the first time since his headline-making exploits for all the wrong reasons 12 months ago when he grabbed Stefano Manzi’s brake lever during the Moto2 race.

Having come full circle as a rider reborn in Moto3, even taking victory in Austria last month, the significance of returning to the Rimini circuit won’t be lost on the Italian rider.

From being disqualified, sacked and banned to a resurgent figure in Moto3 the Italian rider is now tipped to return to Moto2 in 2020.

Fenati will probably hope to remain anonymous this weekend but there can be no doubt attention will turn back on to the 23-year-old as the rider who splits opinion the most inside the paddock.



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