Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo renew their battle for the MotoGP world championship at Australia’s Phillip Island circuit this weekend separated by just 18 points with three races left in the season.
Rossi, 36, the seven-time world champion in the premier class, is chasing his first world title since 2009.
The Italian great has an affinity with the iconic Phillip Island track where he has finished on the podium in 15 of his 18 trips across all three GP classes.
Rossi won his first Australian title last year since 2005 when he beat Lorenzo by more than 10 seconds after world champion Marc Marquez came off his bike while holding a commanding lead.
“Eighteen points can be a good advantage, but also it can also become a very small advantage,” Rossi said Thursday.
“We have three races and this is a track that I like very much and holds great memories for me, but as always all the riders are very strong and Jorge is very fast here and tomorrow we will start another battle.”
Only Rossi and his Spanish Movistar Yamaha teammate Lorenzo can win this year’s title after Marquez broke his left hand last month leaving him 86 points adrift of Rossi with just 75 points available.
– ‘Must win’ –
While nine-time world champion Rossi has an imposing record in Australia, Lorenzo has four podiums in his last six starts at Phillip Island, including a race victory in 2013.
“Now it has come down to the final three races in the championship and we must win a lot of races if we want to recover the points and we want to have the chance in Valencia (final race) to be the world champion,” Lorenzo said.
Rossi is on course to equal fellow Italian Loris Capirossi with most grand prix starts on 328 this weekend, but he already has 50 more premier class starts than Capirossi.
Lorenzo needs to win the remaining three races of the season to keep the heat on “The Doctor” Rossi if he is to have any chance of a third MotoGP crown.
But if Rossi finishes second to Lorenzo in the last three races it will still be enough for him to lift his tenth world title.
Marquez finished in fourth place at Motegi last weekend despite riding with a broken hand and an extra week’s recovery will help the Spaniard although Phillip Island is one of the only two tracks on the circuit where he has not won in the premier class.
Spain’s Dani Pedrosa, who came from behind to grab his first win of the season in Japan last weekend, could also play a major role in deciding where the title ends up in 2015.
Pedrosa, fifth in the world championship, has never won in the premier class at Phillip Island with runner-up in the 2013 race his best result.
“In the last two races it has been a good performance so I am really happy about that and I am looking forward to these last three races,” Pedrosa said.