With just four rounds of the 2011 season now remaining the most closely matched of the three World Championship categories - Moto2 - guarantees to serve up another gripping instalment at this weekend's Grand Prix of Japan.
With victory at Aragón, his seventh of the year in his rookie Moto2 campaign, Marc Márquez narrowed Championship leader Stefan Bradl's advantage at the top of the standings to just six points. Motegi will now commence a packed schedule of three races in as many weeks, as the fascinating duel between the German and his Spanish pursuant nears its climax.
Bradl, who suffered a problem with his rear wheel at Aragón which played a pivotal part in his eighth-placed finish, will seek to halt Márquez's alarming run of devastating form which has seen the 2010 125cc World Champion win six of the past seven Moto2 races. The Viessmann Kiefer Racing rider himself has not won a race since Silverstone, maintaining his lead with a consistent run of podium finishes, but will need a return to race-winning ways if he is to deal with his adversary's surge. Both have previously won at Motegi in the 125cc class, Bradl in 2008 and Márquez last year, thus adding to the anticipation.
Aside from the engrossing two-way tussle at the top there is another great contest playing out below the title aspirants, as five riders contend for third position in the Championship. Andrea Iannone (Speed Master), Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2), Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project), Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) and Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) are all in with a chance of finishing third, and will all be out to impress in the final races of the season.
Currently eighth in the standings Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) will be fully prepared for a strong effort at his home Grand Prix, whilst British rider Scott Redding will be eager to turn his recent strong form into a first podium result of the season. His Marc VDS Racing team-mate Mika Kallio has a very strong record at the Motegi circuit having won three times (twice in 125s and once in the 250cc class), and the Finn would love to rediscover that kind of form as he continues his search for a first Moto2 podium.
Elsewhere Turkish rider Kenan Sofuoglu (Technomag-CIP) is set to make his return from injury although Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar) will not be present after further surgery on the leg he injured back in June.
Tomoyoshi Koyama, who filled in for Sofuoglu in the Turk’s absences at Misano and Aragón, will ride as a wild card under the CIP with TSR team banner, and former 125 World Championship rider Takaaki Nakagami replacing Claudio Corti on the Italtrans STR machine for this GP.