DOHA: Spanish MotoGP star Marc Marquez will be aiming for the first podium of the new season on Sunday when the 2018 MotoGP World Championship battle commences under lights at the Losail International Circuit.
The 25-year-old Honda Respol rider last year topped the final standings, wining six Grand Prix ahead of Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati who finished in second spot. Maverick Vinales of Yahama was third followed by Dani Pedrosa in fourth and ageless warrior Valentino Rossi in fifth place.
“Impossible to say (who will win) as all the guys are tough but I believe in myself,” Marquez said as the lights were switched on for the first time in the new season.
“After a long winter, it looks like everybody is ready to start. All of us more of less start in the best way possible. My future has been decided and it was not easy. I was really happy with them and I saw the bike was working really well,” Marzquez said.
“I feel important and that’s good. I am very thankful to them because we will be more careful about this season. We just want to be quiet and concentrate on the track,” he said.
“This pre-season we concentrated a lot on the engine side because everything is ready for the season.
“We tried to improve and we feel we can better during the season. We will start in a better way than last year. I’m happy with both the technical aspect of the new bike and with the ‘professional’ aspect. We know some tracks will be difficult for us. Then there are some tracks we can attack. We are looking forward to the new season,” he added.
Dovizioso, 31, said he couldn’t wait for the start of the new season.
“Yes, for sure the last season was great. It was a really nice winter. I am really happy about last season. The positive things we expect to be there at the top,” the Ducati Team hero said.
“I worked hard during the winter testing and Ducati worked really well. We have a lot of data. I think we will try everything in the right way. We will try to show our speed. But we will have to wait. The next few rounds will be very important,” he warned.
The 2004 125cc World Champion said he feels strong going into the 2018 season.
“Yes, in the past when you raced for factory team, you had to be realistic as we had bad points and we couldn’t fight the 18 rounds. But this year we feel we have the best situation from my side and from the team’s side,” Dovizioso said. “It doesn’t mean we can fight for the championship but the approach is like that,” the Italian added.
MotoGP veteran Rossi, a four-time winner in Qatar, said he is geared up for ‘fresh challenges’.
“Yes, the journey continues. I am happy because two years ago when I signed the last contract I thought that ‘this is the last one’. But my mind is always on racing. I want to compete,” Rossi, who will ride for Yamaha, said.
“The challenge is very high to stay at the top is more difficult. But I have the motivation,” Rossi said.
“At the end of the last season, I spoke with Yamaha and I said I will decide to do the winter test. If I survive the winter test (laughs), then the test was quite good. Everybody was very close. Some days we were softer but at the end of the day I feel very comfortable. I know there was work to do but I decided after the test,” the 39-year-old said.
Rossi said he doesn’t want to end his career just because other riders had done so.
“I saw lot of great riders in my time. I saw them stop at the maximum of their careers. Like (F1 star Michael) Schumacher and (Max) Biaggi or Troy Bayliss. But I think not everybody was very happy (to quit). Schucmaher and Biaggi came back on the track so I have decided to keep racing (laughs). It can be a risk (the new contract) but if I follow this (logic), I would have stopped already six, seven or eight years ago,” the winner of 89 MotoGP wins, said.
When asked if he had thought of extending his Yamaha contract by a year, Rossi said with a smile: “Yes, we speak also about one by one with Yamaha. But you always think about two (years), also for the balance with the contract of the other riders. If you sign you need to be able to do two years, and stay in line with all the other top riders.” The veteran rider said he remains motivated to give his best.
“I think that I’m maybe one of the first that tries (to race into his 40s),” said Rossi. “I think also all the other riders that are here are able to keep the top level until 40. Physically, if you are strong, you can. It depends on your motivation, on your life. If you like to continue, I think everyone can do. I still have the passion.”
Source : https://thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/16/03/2018/World-champion-Marquez-feels-ready-to-defend-MotoGP-title