TOKYO (AFP) - Jorge Lorenzo has insisted he still has a fighting chance of retaining his motorcycling world title, as pressure builds on gaffe-hit championship leader Marc Marquez ahead of the Japanese MotoGP.
Lorenzo slashed Marquez's advantage to 18 points with two races left when he won last week in Australia, after an astonishing Honda team error saw the 20-year-old rookie disqualified.
And Yamaha's Lorenzo told AFP that tension would now be growing for his fellow Spaniard, who is bidding to become the sport's youngest champion.
"Normally when the championship is close to the end you feel more pressure," the two-time world champion said in an interview.
"It doesn't matter how many points advantage you have. You start thinking that something can go wrong, so for sure he could be starting to have some pressure."
Marquez has won a rookie-record six races in the premier class after his title in Moto2 last year, and was on course to be crowned the first rookie champion since 1978 last week at Phillip Island.
However, he was black-flagged for not pitting during a mandatory window to change tyres, as ordered pre-race due to safety fears, and coming in one lap too late.
The blunder was attributed to Marquez's team but Lorenzo, still alive in the championship with races left in Motegi and Valencia, promised to push the whiz-kid all the way.
"We have to be competitive enough to fight for the first positions," said Lorenzo, who also won the MotoGP championship in 2010.
"Twenty-five laps in Motegi, 27-28 in Valencia - a lot of laps to do, so anything can happen. We have to believe, we have to focus on our performance. I have hope."
Despite his reduced lead, Marquez can still seal the title with a race to spare on Sunday if he wins and Lorenzo finishes outside the top two.
He is bidding to break the long-standing age record held by America's Freddie Spencer, who was 21 when he won the former 500cc world title in 1983.
The young rider with a '93', the year of his birth, on his helmet has had a storming season with his six wins coming among 14 podium finishes in 16 races so far.
And Lorenzo, who also has six wins this season, refused to speculate on whether the error in Australia would knock Marquez's title bid off-track.
"I don't know (if it will affect him)," said the 26-year-old, who won in Japan in 2009 and has finished runner-up to Honda's Dani Pedrosa the past two years.
"He made a mistake because he came in one lap too late. To be honest it doesn't matter so much because we are trying to do our job and we can't control the others so I don't think too much about it," added Lorenzo, chased across the line by Pedrosa and Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi last weekend.
"The mentality for me must me more or less the same. Your emotions must be in control. It doesn't matter how many points I have in the championship, how many possibilities I have to win it, I always try to go 100 per cent on the bike."
While Pedrosa, who retains a mathematical chance of winning the title, accused Marquez of dangerous riding following a collision between the two in Aragon, Lorenzo blamed the sport's organisers for not enforcing tighter rules.
"Maybe I have problems with race direction," he said. "They must be stronger with the behaviour of riders who seem to be not very conscious of the risk that we are taking on the track. Because they can put other riders at risk.
"I don't have any problem with the riders. If the referees give you the possibility to be aggressive and take risks, you do it. The fault is not from the riders, it's from the race directors."