The MotoGP circus heads to Misano for the San Marino Grand Prix with Francesco Bagnaia having made the championship fight a three-way battle.
Italian Bagnaia - 3/1 to be crowned champion - has well and truly reignited the title race by taking the chequered flag in the Netherlands, Great Britain and Austria, closing to within 44 points of standings leader and reigning champion 2/5 Fabio Quartararo.
Between Yamaha star Quartararo and Bagnaia lies Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro (6/1), who is 32 points off the pace being set by the former, while holding a 12-point advantage over the latter.
|What||San Marino GP|
Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
13:00, Sunday 4th September 2022
|How to watch|
BT Sport 2
Ducati ace Bagnaia looked to be out of the title picture altogether after failing to finish either the Catalan GP or the German GP, however the 25-year-old has responded to those setbacks in superb fashion.
First he edged out compatriot and fellow Ducati rider Marco Bezzecchi to win at Assen, with Quartararo crashing out on the second lap and Espargaro finishing down in fifth place.
Things got even better for Bagnaia at Silverstone as he again crossed the line first, with Quartararo and Espargaro having to settle for eighth and ninth places respectively.
The pressure on the leading pair then ratcheted up a further notch at the Red Bull Ring, especially for Espargaro, whose struggles continued as he could only finish in sixth place.
Up ahead Quartararo put together a late charge to take second place and ensure that he limited the damage to five points gained by race winner Bagnaia.
Bagnaia is quite rightly bouncing as he prepares for the action at Misano in Italy and clearly has his sights set on challenging for yet another victory - having now won five of the last eight races.
Failing to finish the other three Grands Prix during that run may yet prove to be crucial in the race for the title, but for now the Italian is obviously the man to beat.
He recently told reporters: "We arrive in Misano after winning the last three races and also (here) last year we came first in the San Marino GP. So expectations are high."
Bagnaia won at Misano 12 months ago, again edging out Quartararo, while he also finished second at the same circuit in 2020 and won the Moto2 race here back in 2018.
Frenchman Quartararo left Austria saying that his second-place finish was "tough but rewarding", with his overall standings lead having increased by 15 points over Espargaro.
However, he will be only too aware that he has not beaten Bagnaia in a race which both riders have finished since the Portuguese GP back in April.
The 23-year-old does have reason to be upbeat following his efforts at the Red Bull Ring though, with his strong second place a massive improvement on a disappointing showing in the GB race, where he had to settle for eighth place.
He also has a reasonably good record at Misano, having finished second in both races staged at the circuit last season, matching his effort back in 2019.
Thirty-three-year-old Spaniard Espargaro remains the nearest challenger to Quartararo in the standings, but recent form suggests that his title challenge is faltering.
He may have finished every one of the 13 races completed so far this season, but he has not claimed a podium finish in any of the last five GPs and his sole victory to date came in Argentina back in early April.
Even worse news for Espargaro comes with the fact that he has finished no higher than eighth in the ten San Marino Grands Prix he has taken part in, having failed to finish on four occasions.
All of the momentum is currently with Bagnaia and between himself and Quartararo, the duo have won all of the last six races.
There is little to suggest that the winner at Misano will not be one of those two riders, with the Italian knowing that he still has plenty of work to do to deny the Frenchman a second successive championship.
Should someone else take the honours, another Italian, Enea Bastianini, could be the man to watch, having taken pole position for Ducati in Austria, before frustratingly seeing his race ended as early as the sixth lap.
Bastianini won the season-opener in Qatar and also triumphed in both the United States and France before suffering a slump in results in the last three months, but signs of a resurgence were there at the Red Bull Ring.