MotoGP hasn't seen a rookie win the championship since Kenny Roberts in 1978, but Marc Marquez has one more chance to join that list.
The Spanish rider sits on pole position and leads compatriot Jorge Lorenzo by 13 points ahead of Sunday's final race of the season, and it's proving to be a difficult one to call.
|Valencia MotoGP 2013 Qualifying|
|1||93||Marc MARQUEZ||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||320.8||1'30.237|
|2||99||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||318.1||1'30.577||0.340 / 0.340|
|3||26||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||323.5||1'30.663||0.426 / 0.086|
|4||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||317.0||1'30.920||0.683 / 0.257|
|5||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||318.3||1'31.113||0.876 / 0.193|
|6||38||Bradley SMITH||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||313.8||1'31.201||0.964 / 0.088|
|7||19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SPA||GO&FUN Honda Gresini||Honda||319.0||1'31.594||1.357 / 0.393|
|8||6||Stefan BRADL||GER||LCR Honda MotoGP||Honda||323.0||1'31.638||1.401 / 0.044|
|9||4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||315.0||1'31.718||1.481 / 0.080|
|10||69||Nicky HAYDEN||USA||Ducati Team||Ducati||314.5||1'31.870||1.633 / 0.152|
|11||29||Andrea IANNONE||ITA||Energy T.I. Pramac Racing||Ducati||314.6||1'31.963||1.726 / 0.093|
|12||9||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Came IodaRacing Project||Ioda-Suter||301.3||1'33.116||2.879 / 1.153|
Of course, Marquez has had two chances to win the title already and came up short both times. Given his current points advantage over Lorenzo, he has a few options that will all see him take the crown.
If Lorenzo wins, Marquez must finish fourth or above. If Lorenzo comes in second, Marquez must finish eighth or above. If Lorenzo manages third place, a 12th-place finish will be enough for Marquez to claim the championship. This drops to 15th with a fourth-place finish from Lorenzo.
Riders to Watch
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda
Marquez has been a thrilling addition to the MotoGP season and has completely shaken up the sport. He flew out to a championship lead and looked to be running away with the sport until Lorenzo began to peg him back.
He has shown some inexperience at times, and that has occasionally cost him. He was disqualified in Australia after failing to make a mandatory pit stop, which handed Lorenzo a lifeline in the championship race.
Pressure could be a factor in the outcome of Sunday's race, and it will be interesting to see how he handles it.
Nevertheless, there's no denying the 20-year-old's talent, and that has been on display all season for Repsol Honda. This was especially evident in his demolition of the field during qualifying, securing pole position with a track-record lap of 1:30.237.
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing
Reigning champion Lorenzo has clawed his way back into the title reckoning and could now take it on the final day of the season.
Lorenzo has the experience, and he's free of the expectation that has dogged Marquez the last couple of weeks. Speaking to AutoEvolution.com, Lorenzo outlined the situation:
I feel cool. I don’t have any pressure. I don’t have anything to lose; second place in the championship is done, so all I can try to do is win the race.
However, history is a little bit against him at Valencia. Lorenzo crashed out in this race last year and failed to race in 2011 while he recovered from injury. His only victory at the circuit came in 2010.
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda
With first and second place a two-horse race, Dani Pedrosa is nonetheless likely to influence the outcome of MotoGP's top prize.
As both Marquez's teammate and the rider with the most victories on the circuit, Pedrosa is definitely a rider to watch.
The Spaniard won the race in 2007, 2009 and 2012 and has won more races on Spanish soil than any rider in GP history.
Byron Wilson wrote for Motorcycle-USA.com that Pedrosa has 13 total wins in Spain across 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP classes.
There's no doubt that he'll be among the leading pack as the race progresses, which is likely to aid Marquez more than Lorenzo. Pedrosa is a definite joker in the pack.
While it's tempting to state that Lorenzo will continue his run of form and take his third championship, Marquez remains the favourite here.
Look for him to get some assistance from Pedrosa and keep Lorenzo at bay to take the title and complete a remarkable debut season.