This weekend sees the 18th and final chapter of the globetrotting duel that is the 2013 MotoGP world championship.
At Valencia, either Marc Marquez – the current leader by 13 points – or Jorge Lorenzo – the current champion – will take this year’s title.
For only the second time in 20 years, the battle has come down to the final round. It’s a fitting statistic as both of the contenders have raced at a standard rarely seen in this sport.
Both Marquez and Lorenzo have been superb all season with only the odd mistake to blot their record. Marquez has been the luckier of the two, with just a dislocated shoulder at Silverstone and a badly grazed hand at Mugello on his injury list. Lorenzo, meanwhile fractured his left collarbone and injured his shoulder after making a mistake in practice at Assen.
This cost him points, despite a magnificently brave ride, at Assen and the following race at the Sachsenring where he exacerbated the injury after a second practice crash forced him out of the race altogether.
Marquez took advantage of this free hand to start a run of four consecutive victories in the middle of the season, which made him the championship leader by 43 points with just three rounds to go.
But Phillip Island had a surprise in store, or rather Bridgestone’s inability to make a tyre last the full race distance did. The race was made into a two part affair with a mandatory pitstop enforced on laps 10-11.
When Marquez pitted on lap 12 eyebrows were raised and much to Honda’s embarrassment and anger, the black flag was given to Marquez. With Lorenzo taking the win and the 25 points, the lead was down to just 18 with two races remaining.
Honda claimed it was a team decision and that they had been led to believe a stop on lap 12 was allowed as only 11 laps would have been completed by Marquez. However, it’s much easier to believe this was just an excuse for Marquez missing his pit board. With all the brainpower present in the Honda garage, a simple bit of maths is unlikely to have stumped them.
The confusion and controversy of Australia followed by Lorenzo’s victory in Motegi, means Marquez leads by 13 points going into the finale. But that is the important bit – Marquez leads. He only needs a fourth place finish even if Lorenzo wins and Marquez hasn’t finished lower than third all year. Marquez has the advantage.
However, Valencia in November can serve up a few shocks. Last year it rained and Dani Pedrosa won after starting from the pit lane. In 2006 Valentino Rossi ended up in the gravel and gifted the title to Nicky Hayden.
Marquez too could easily end up in the gravel if he hits a damp patch, or the pressure finally gets to him. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s going to be a thrilling finale.