TEXAS - Fabio Quartararo will get the chance to move another big stride forward in his bid to become France's first ever MotoGP world champion when he sets off for the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas this weekend.
The 22-year-old Yamaha rider has won five races this season and heads to Texas with a 48-point lead over Ducati's Francesco Bagnaia who has won the last two races.
With each race worth 25 points to the winner, and only three more to come after Texas, Quartararo will be eager arrest the Italian's charge and put some more points into that gap.
To avoid putting pressure on himself Quartararo admitted that that he has "decided not to think about the championship".
"At the start of the year, I said to myself, whether or not I'm fighting for the title, I want to win races," he said. "I want it to continue like this."
On paper, the Circuit of the Americas may favour the Ducatis, who can use their engine power in the long 1.2-kilometre straight.
Bagnaia is certainly 'hot' going into the race having won in Aragon and Misano, while Quartararo could only manage eighth and second.
"It will be crucial to be consistent and score as many points as possible," said Bagnaia.
Suzuki's Joan Mir is third in the championship, 67 points away from the lead and effectively needs a victory to keep alive his slender hopes of defending his championship title.
Fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco, who is 93 points back, and the Australian Jack Miller (94) are mathematically still in the title race but something would have to go very wrong for Quartararo in Texas for these two still to be interested after Sunday.
A greater threat on the day is more likely to be six-time world champion Marc Marquez.
The Honda rider, who is still feeling his way back to full fitness after a debilitating crash last season, has won six times out of seven in Texas since the first edition in 2013.
On circuits which turn anti-clockwise, Marquez has always been almost unbeatable.
And even though he is not yet back to 100 percent since his serious accident last year, his right arm injury is less of a handicap when it comes to turning mainly to the left.
The proof of that lies in his results. On the two anti-clockwise tracks visited this season, he won in Germany and finished second in Aragon.
One man who will be missing from the GP of the Americas, which was cancelled last year because of Covid-19, is Maverick Vinales whose 15-year-old cousin Dean Berta Vinales was killed in a race in Jerez on Saturday.
"Less than a week has passed since the accident involving Dean Berta Vinales, Vinales' younger cousin, which is not enough time to regain the serenity needed to race," his Aprilia team said in a statement.
"Vinales, with the full and unconditional support of Aprilia Racing, has therefore decided to take a break."
In Moto2, Australian Remy Gardner (Kalex) is 34 points ahead of his teammate Raul Fernandez but the latter has won the last two races.
In Moto3, the Spanish rookie Pedro Acosta (KTM), who dominated the start of the season, still has a comfortable cushion of 42 points ahead of the Italian Dennis Foggia (Honda) who has won the last two GPs.