MotoGP’s gruelling Asian triple-header is in the books, but it’s difficult to know what to make of what’s turned into a rollercoaster of a championship.

Let’s start with what we know for certain.

After 17 weekends there are only three riders still in contention for the title. Marco Bezzecchi, at 74 points down, is only just mathematically in it and faces elimination at the next round in Malaysia.

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Francesco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo started the season as the two championship favourites, but if you’d attempted to plot out the campaign during pre-season testing, there’s no way you’d have come close to predicting the year we ended up getting.

Far from a titanic duel from the outset, both started the year way off the pace and downcast about their chances. They then took it on turns dominating the field in long stints until we got our three-race shootout to end the season.

But really campaigns can’t be segmented as neatly as that. They may have started the final stanza almost level on points, but the momentum that had waxed and waned between them had already set up an almost inevitable conclusion.

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Francesco Bagnaia was so close to the MotoGP championship trophy that he could have seen his own reflection in the solid silver plaques bearing the names of the riders he hopes to emulate at this weekend’s Valencia Grand Prix.

He had been placed alongside the glittering prize in a photo shoot with title rival Fabio Quartararo, who he leads in the standings by an almost unassailable 23 points.

But despite being closer to the trophy than he’s ever been before, he refused to touch it.

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Francesco Bagnaia is on the cusp of doing the unthinkable.

Just nine rounds ago the man christened as Bologna’s best hope was watching his bike slide through the gravel at the Sachsenring as reigning champion Fabio Quartararo powered up the road and to eventual victory.

His fourth crash of the year put him a staggering 91 points off the title lead. No rider has ever come back from such a margin.

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