Steve Parrish column: Spanish will dominate MotoGP for years
MotoGP returns to Spain for the third time this season at Aragon this weekend, and the nation's red and yellow 'la Rojigualda' flag is becoming as familiar a sight around the paddock as the chequered one.
There is still a fourth Spanish round to come of course - the season finale in Valencia in November - and this year's title will almost certainly be heading to a Spanish rider once again.
Rookie Marc Marquez is odds-on favourite as he holds a 34-point lead over compatriots Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa with five races to go, and all the signs point to the boys from Spain dominating motorcycle racing for years to come.
Six of the top 15 in the riders' standings are Spanish, and incredibly only five of the 37 races across the three classes this season have been won by non-Spanish riders.
Every Moto3 race - where young riders start out on their careers - has been won by a Spaniard this year, while Italian legend Valentino Rossi's win at Assen is the only time a MotoGP podium hasn't been topped by the Spain flag this season.
So why are they so good?
One of the reasons is cultural. If you come to any town centre in Spain you will see plenty of teenagers on scooters and mopeds, which they can ride from the age of 15. They can't drive a car until they are 18 so for three years they are hooked.
But there is also a huge racing culture in Spain now, with young kids travelling from across Europe to compete in the championships out there. The weather is obviously more reliable than in the UK and they have poured money into it over the last 15 years; now they are reaping the benefits.
If you go back to 1999, Casey Stoner and his family relocated from Australia to Britain to start his racing career at the age of 14; now people are more likely to move to Spain. Former 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner has done exactly that as his two young boys are starting out in racing and Spain is seen as the best place to begin.
The quality is so high in Spain now, and from that huge talent pool of teenagers we are seeing 10 to 15 youngsters coming in to the World Championship every season.
So Spain rule the paddock - but Britain are doing OK for a small nation.
As for this season's MotoGP championship, it is in danger of becoming a one-horse race. Marquez appears to be solid as a rock but it is his first year in MotoGP so there is that element of doubt about him.
You would expect a rookie to crumble under the pressure of leading the championship but there has been absolutely nothing to suggest that has happened so far.
The one variable which is keeping the title race alive for the other guys is that one non-finish for Marquez will blow the whole thing open once again. He has a big lead but one crash would see that all-but disappear as there are 25 points available for a win.
Mechanical failures are very rare in MotoGP but it is so easy to crash out as the riders are on the edge all the time.
Steve's Aragon predictions:
1. Jorge Lorenzo 2. Marc Marquez 3. Dani Pedrosa
Aragon Grand Prix
- Friday 27 September:
- Practice on Connected TV & Online from 08:45 BST
- Saturday 28 September:
- Practice on Connected TV from 08:45 BST; Qualifying on BBC Red Button and BBC Two from 11:30 BST. All sessions online
- Sunday 29 September:
- Moto2 & Moto3 races from 09:45 BST on BBC Red Button; MotoGP race on BBC Two at 12:30 BST. All races online