With Valentino Rossi closing the gap on the MotoGP rider's standings, American Nicky Hayden is in no doubt about the importance of getting back on top of the podium in Sunday's Grand Prix of Japan.
"With 14 races down and three to go, it's really getting down to crunch time," Honda rider Hayden said at the Motegi circuit yesterday.
Hayden, who is looking for his first MotoGP championship has 225 championship points, 21-point ahead of Italy's Rossi who has won the world title the last five years.
Hayden arrived in Japan bolstered by a strong recovery at last week's Australian Grand Prix when he climbed all the way from 16th at the end of the first lap to finish fifth.
Hayden finished seventh at last year's Japan GP, which was won by Italian Loris Capirossi on a Ducati and saw Rossi crash out on the 13th lap.
With just two races remaining after Motegi, a win in Japan on Sunday will go a long way in securing the title.
Marco Melandri of Italy is also still in the hunt for the title.
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