Martin triumphs in the sprint on Saturday in Valencia, facing a race that already had the flavour of a grand final. The obstacle that presented itself to Jorge in the last weekend of the season at Ricardo Tormo was one that could have discouraged him, because 21 points to make up on Bagnaia was not an easy objective, but the Spaniard reacted with the enthusiasm of a champion, and with this victory he reopened the battle by breaking down that wall and lowering it to a more manageable -14. Martin had no other options, he had said so several times, and he did not disappoint expectations despite a less than stellar qualifying which saw him start sixth from the second row.
Martinator thus "had big balls" as he later commented at the end of the race, also taking risks on a circuit whose grip could have played treacherous tricks. The spectacle benefitted, and the battle between the two brand mates thus enters its highly anticipated peak, on a Sunday that promises sparks. For the Spaniard it will be an all-or-nothing battle, and there will be many unknowns to consider, from the choice of tyres, to sanctions, to the team games of the rival riders on the track.
"Today I didn't have many alternatives - begins the Spaniard - we were fast and this result is even more positive if I think back to what happened in Qatar last week. It was a difficult race from the tyre point of view, the sensations at the front weren’t excellent, but as I had already said I had to try everything. This morning the sensations of the medium were better but the soft gave me more confidence and I took a risk, but I think that for tomorrow's race the medium will be the best option."
However, a problem in qualifying forced you to start from the second row.
"Yes, I had a problem with the front, it wasn't calibrated well and I had to change the bike. The other one had a hard one and with these temperatures on the track I couldn't do better than the sixth fastest time, if this hadn't happened I think I would have been in a position to get a pole."
The best race of your career judging by the celebrations at the finish line and in the garage.
"I don't think it was the best, it was certainly a race in which I had big balls, the feeling at the front wasn't good and I took risks at every corner, pushing to the limit with the sole objective of winning the race. I celebrated because I am happy and proud of the work we did today, we don't know what will happen tomorrow."
You also fought with Marc.
"It was certainly nice, but I maintained my position. Tomorrow, however, there won't be anything for anyone, I want to win, whoever wants to fight I will respond."
Tomorrow will be an all-out battle between you and Pecco.
"I think there are many rivals, I'm thinking of Binder, Marquez, Vinales... but Pecco is a world champion, he knows how to manage these situations and has shown several times that he can get a podium, even if at the moment it seems he's under a bit of pressure."
How are you living the pressure, what does it feel like to fight for the title on your home circuit?
"It's a fantastic feeling, but I know that it won't be easy to win, even if that's the only option I have left. The reality is that I don't have much to lose, Pecco has a 14 point advantage over me, I just have to try to win tomorrow too."
Aleix said that in his opinion you have a 70% chance of winning over Pecco.
"That’s an optimistic forecast! - jokes Jorge - I think the situation is the opposite but I'm happy to bet on that 30%. At the beginning of the year I would have paid to find myself in this situation now, but not to be second in the standings and fighting for the title. In the race, however, anything can happen, one mistake is enough to end up behind 8th or 9th. At this point I have nothing left to lose, second place in the standings is mine, mistakes can be made when trying to overtake but I will still try to win the race."
Does fighting now knowing that Pecco can settle for fifth place while you have to take on all the risks bother you?
"I don't think it will be that easy for him to finish in the top five, we are all very fast. Of course anything is possible if the others stop behind him as happened today. But he could also go low on pressure and get the penalty. We will have to wait tomorrow to see what will happen."
So you expect to see team games from the other Ducati riders tomorrow.
“I think that's what will happen, they won't want to fight him, but unfortunately I have no power over that so it's not my concern.”
At Misano last year when the factory team chose Enea, you said you would have made history.
"I think we're doing it now, four victories aren't a few, I wouldn’t be able to count the podiums, we're the best independent team. I think no satellite team has made history like we're making it. It makes me a bit angry though to be at a 14-point gap and be so fast on the track."
Here in Spain and in the paddock people cheer you on, does this give you further motivation to face the final battle?
"It's nice, people support me, but I think that a lot of the motivation also comes from the results we've achieved. I've often said that I don't feel the pressure but I'm starting to feel it too, because I'm fighting for something big."
Today we saw several penalties for tyre pressure, is this another unknown factor that should not be underestimated tomorrow?
"A three-second penalty could change everything, today I had no problems, I was under the right pressure and I won, but the truth is that the risk is there, also because the temperatures could be different tomorrow, it could happen to me or to Pecco."
Tomorrow will it be more of a battle of the head or who will give more gas?
"It's been one of my big dilemmas in the past. Tomorrow there will be room for the head but basically it will be a day where you have to give gas."
You have always been an explosive rider, and this has brought you a lot of success in sprints, less so in long races.
"Tomorrow I will also be in the long race - the Spaniard reassured us with a touch of pride - but the dynamics can be very different, this year it is the combination of a series of factors, once it is the tyre pressure, in Indonesia I crashed, in Australia I chose the wrong compound, in Qatar I chose a defective tyre.. but at the moment I feel stronger."
Do you feel like the strongest rider at the moment? If you didn't win, would you think it was an injustice?
"No, Pecco had an incredible first half of the season, I had an incredible second half. At the moment I'm the strongest but at the beginning of the year I wasn't, which is why I'm now here at a 14-point gap. I hope that next year we can maintain this level with the team, we are doing a fantastic job."
Are you still aiming for the official team?
"I'm happy where I am now, but it's not up to me to decide."
What lesson have you learned this season?
"Not just me, the team has also learned a lot. Sometimes we have to be calmer, but there are many other things, perhaps the main one is not to overdo it, winning by a tenth or ten seconds is all in all the same thing."
Have you tried to imagine what it would be like to cross the finish line as a champion?
"It's clear that I have imagined it, it's always been the dream of my life, but I don't want to indulge in illusions too much, now is the time to stay focused."