Marc Marquez will target another victory at the 2019 MotoGP Grand Prix of Australia to help close out his title-winning season in style.
The champion won in Japan earlier this month and will again be the rider to beat this weekend on the Phillip Island Circuit in Victoria. However, he can count on a strong challenge from Fabio Quartararo, after the Frenchman crossed the line second in Motegi.
Quartararo has made a habit of being Marquez's closest challenger, finishing as runner-up in Japan, Thailand and San Marino. The 20-year-old is putting together a strong case for being the man who can end Marquez's domination of the title next season.
Saturday, October 26
- Warm Up: 12:40 a.m. BST/7:40 p.m. ET to 1 a.m. BST/8 p.m. ET
- Race: 4 a.m. BST/11 p.m. ET
Quartararo Primed to Beat Marquez
Last year's race was a tough one for Marquez and Johann Zarco, who crashed after tangling at close quarters:
Marquez finished next to last and watched Maverick Vinales take top spot on the podium. Yet there has been little wrong with the Spaniard's form as of late, based on his wins at San Marino, Aragon, Thailand and Japan.
It's been another near-flawless season for Marquez, but there have also been signs Quartararo is ready to assume his mantle. He's raced with bravado and can take greater confidence from Vinales' ride to victory 12 months ago.
Vinales added another win for Yamaha on a track where the team has traditionally performed well. Quartararo will be on the Petronas Yamaha, a bike he believes in, per Crash.net's Haydn Cobb: "I feel very confident with the bike right now, and that feeling from the front end of the bike will be important at Phillip Island."
Cobb also noted how Yamaha has won three of the last six races in Australia, a good omen for Quartararo's chances.
There is extra motivation for Quartararo, whose performances as the top rookie in the sport are putting pressure on Yamaha chiefs to sign him to a contract. MotorSport Magazine's Mat Oxley believes "Honda's rivals know they need the youngster if they want to try to end Marc Marquez's domination."
It's a strong position to be in for a rising star Oxley thinks is playing a waiting game while his Petronas deal runs until 2021. Beating Marquez over the line would not only further endorse the idea Quartararo is a champion in waiting, it would also increase his power at the negotiating table.