Moto GP: Five things to watch during the Japanese Grand Prix

Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo will start on pole for the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, and Marc Marquez will start 1-2-3 for the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin-Ring Motegi. As the championship battle continues to heat up, here are five things to watch on Sunday:

1). A LORENZO VICTORY

Title contender Jorge Lorenzo needs a third consecutive win at Motegi to claw back a bunch of points on Valentino Rossi in the two-man title fight, and he knows it. Lorenzo’s bristling self-confidence is on full show with a string of super-fast laps in practice and qualifying. Lorenzo knows he is faster than Rossi, virtually taunting his great Yamaha rival to race with him out front in what will be a crucial race. Lorenzo posted the fastest ever lap of Motegi to qualify on pole. "In this frame of mind, Jorge is virtually unbeatable," Yamaha team director Massimo Meregali said after Lorenzo’s stellar qualifying run.

2). ROSSI’S START

Despite his 86 MotoGP race wins, Valentino Rossi is a notoriously slow starter, especially this season when his best results have come from behind with daring overtakes and race strategy. Rossi’s wins at Qatar and Argentina are two that quickly spring to mind.  But, if Rossi, starting second on the front row, concedes early ground at Motegi and drops behind the fast and hard-to-pass Ducatis, even his reserves of talent may find chasing down Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo a step too far.

3). DANI PEDROSA

For almost three seasons, Dani Pedrosa has been overshadowed by his teammate Marc Marquez, Honda’s golden boy and the youngest-ever world champion.  That is, until Pedrosa rode the race of his life at the Aragon GP to beat Yamaha star Valentino Rossi in a breathtaking late race battle.  Can Pedrosa repeat this sparkling form, which is true reflection of his talent in the Japanese Grand Prix?  If he does, another podium beckons.

4). DUCATI WINGLETS

Ducati engineers are convinced that the carbon fibre winglets, now hanging off the front and sides of the fairing on the GP15, boost the performance of their bike.  Both Honda and Yamaha have yet to embrace the concept in races. But, the proof will be when the checkered flag falls. Can the addition of larger, single plane winglets at Motegi given the two Andreas, Dovizioso and Iannone, the edge they need race up front after a mid-season slump?

5). HONDA HOME WIN

The Honda Motor Company reportedly spent more than $400 million building the Twin Ring Motegi circuit as a 50th anniversary gift to themselves. But, the Indycar Series no longer makes its annual visit to race on the banked oval.  Also, 2012 was the last time a Honda, ridden by Dani Pedrosa, won the Japanese Grand Prix. Can Pedrosa or Marc Marquez deliver a win for the high-ranking Honda executives who descend on Motegi for this race?  Marquez will race with a fractured bone in his left hand suffered in a mountain bike crash, and admits he needs "a big step" from his Honda set-up to challenge Yamaha for the win.