Thirteen points, that's it: Jorge Martin, second in the MotoGP world championship, has never been so close to settling into the overall leader's seat currently occupied by Francesco Bagnaia, on the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix.
For his third season in the premier category of motorcycle speed, the Spaniard, nicknamed “Martinator”, almost won everything last weekend in India, taking a serious option for first place in the championship.
After 13 rounds (out of 20) contested this season, the Ducati-Pramac rider, with a victory in the sprint last Saturday followed by a second place at the end of the GP the next day, arrives on the Japanese circuit of Motegi with a delay of only 13 points on the reigning champion “Pecco” Bagnaia (279 points against 292), while a maximum of 37 points will be to be recovered this weekend.
For Bagnaia, the priority will first be “to resolve the problems encountered” on the Buddh circuit last week, where the Ducati rider had fallen in the GP while a place on the podium was reaching out to him, losing precious championship points.
Problems that will have to be resolved quickly because, in addition to the Martin threat, behind, Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati-VR46) also has a card to play. Winner of the Indian GP, the Italian is 44 lengths behind Bagnaia overall.
Marquez chez Gresini?
If, among the drivers, the title is still far from being decided, on the manufacturers' side, Ducati is already on the way to winning its fourth coronation in a row.
This season, the Italian manufacturer still has a significant advantage thanks to its eight bikes on the grid (two running for the factory team and six for the three satellite teams) - compared to only four or less for its competitors.
To win the title on Sunday, Ducati - which will have "only" six bikes on the grid after the withdrawals of the Spaniard Alex Marquez (Ducati-Gresini) and the Italian Luca Marini (Ducati-VR46), injured - must score at least 22 points more than KTM, and not losing more than three against Aprilia over the entire weekend.
Far behind, failing to compete for the manufacturers' title, Yamaha and Honda - who own the circuit - hope to honor their supporters on their land.
In India, the French Fabio Quartararo, world champion in 2021 but only 11th in the championship (105 points), signed his 2nd GP podium of the year (after the United States GP), finishing 3rd on the handlebars of a Yamaha that he struggles to make perform.
At Honda, star Marc Marquez will also try to continue his momentum after his 3rd place in the sprint last weekend.
The next day, the six-time champion of the discipline could have confirmed his good form on the Indian track, if he had not crashed in the first laps. Getting back on his mount, the Spaniard, struggling with his Honda, still finished 9th in the race.
“The conditions at Motegi can often change a lot (...) but our overall goal remains the same: to make constant progress and achieve the best possible result” with Honda. But for how much longer?
According to the latest trends, the 30-year-old Spaniard could leave the ranks of the Japanese team - with whom he won all of his six MotoGP titles - a year earlier than expected to join Ducati-Gresini next season .
Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti assured last weekend that the team was now awaiting a response from the person concerned.
For his part, Marquez neither confirmed nor denied his possible departure from Honda. Verdict in Japan?