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IT IS VROOM time again at the Losail International Circuit as the new MotoGP season starts under lights with the Grand Prix of Qatar on Sunday.

World champion Marc Marquez of Honda and MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi of Yamaha are once again the leading contenders. 

Throw in the ambitious Maverick Vinales, who switched from Suzuki to Yamaha filling up the big void created by Jorge Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, the 18-leg season which culminates in Valencia, Spain, on November 12 promises plenty of thrill and drama.

Once again, Spanish riders dominate the grid as 10 of the 23 are from the ‘home of MotoGP’. 

Marquez will surely relish his return to the Losail circuit, where he finished third on his MotoGP debut as a teenager in 2013, a year in which he clinched his maiden title. His CV has been enriched by two more world titles and into his fifth year in premier class racing, the 24-year-old is upbeat about his title defence.

“Each year is different, you encounter new situations and you’ve to adapt as best as possible. Physically I’m at 100 per cent and mentally also I’m very motivated, as always, to try to fight for the title for another year,” said Marquez.

Rossi will once again be his main rival. But the worrying factor for the senior-most pro in Grand Prix racing is that he has not been able to win a world title since 2009. 

With 22-year-olds like Vinales and Jack Miller raising the bar, Rossi needs to push hard as he aims to end his title drought.

Last year’s MotoGP season had nine different winners and one of them was Vinales, who triumphed at the British Grand Prix. The Spaniard has grown in stature since then and was the most impressive in the pre-season tests. Vinales is already being touted as the next Marquez in MotoGP circles and the fight between the duo is expected to be one of the major highlights of the season. 

While Vinales has been reluctant to speak of himself as an early favourite, his pre-season form is surely a cause for worry for his rivals.

Lorenzo, who won the season opener in Losail last time, has already admitted that he needs some time to get used to the new Ducati. However, never write off the three-time world champion as on his day he can be deadly.

Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Honda’s Dani Pedrosa are outsiders when it comes to title chances, but they can give the top four a run for their money as the lights are about to glow at Losail. 

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