ALL ABOARD FOR OZ GP: MotoGP rider Marc Marquez of Spain about to board for the first practice on Friday ahead of the 2014 Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island. He already has the '14 Riders' title. Image: AFP / Peter Parks
PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia - The pressure has been off Marc Marquez since he clinched a back-to-back MotoGP championship in Japan a week ago but the heat is still on in the race to finish second heading into Sunday's Australian MotoGP here.
The 21-year-old Spanish Honda rider wrapped up the 2014 title last with the points scored when he finished second at Motegi in Japan; three races are left – Australia on Sunday (Oct 19), Malaysia and Spain.
LESS PRESSURE, MORE FREE
With the title in the bag, Marquez can bask in his achievement of 11 victories from 15 races so far through 2014 as Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo fight for the championship scraps.
"I feel really good, less pressure, more free," Marquez said of his fourth championship in five seasons from various classes of racing. “The championship is done but you are more tired after all the commitments. Of course, you can enjoy it a lot after winning a championship and the confidence is high."
Although Marquez won the 125cc race in Australia in 2010, he has never won a premier class GP at Phillip Island - an incentive for him to give his all again this weekend.
"Phillip Island is a special place - one of the best circuits we come to. It is really nice to ride here," Marquez added. "I've only won here in the 125's but the track is incredible and I have a good memory from 2012 that I won the (Moto3) title here, so I am really focused and motivated for this weekend."
'JUST NEEDED THE PIECES'
Fellow Spaniard Lorenzo, who won the 2013 MotoGP here while on the way to losing the championship by four points to Marquez, is coming off two wins and is hitting form at the right time.
"We just needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together," the Yamaha ace said. "We are competitive now, and strong. It is not going to be easy to keep winning races because there are four riders in very good shape. But our level is high.”
In 2013 in Australia Lorenzo won by seven seconds a race which involved the riders changing bikes midway through due to tyre durability concerns. He won the championship in 2010 and 2012; on Sunday he will start three points behind Yamaha team mate Valentino Rossi with Pedrosa in fourth place in the championship.
Rossi, a nine-times champion through the classes, is well in the mix after finishing on the podium in five of the past six races, including victory in San Marino.
The Italian great, now 35, has finished on the podium 14 times in 17 visits to Phillip Island – again, across all three GP classes.
Marquez's Honda team mate Pedrosa was runner-up behind Lorenzo at Phillip Island in 2013 but has lost points to Lorenzo and Rossi in recent races.
The 4.448km circuit on the shore of the Bass Strait is a season classic for the world's top riders with its sweeping blend of seven left-handers and five right-handers.