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Reigning MotoGP World Champion analyses the start of the upcoming season, as he continues his recovery from a fractured fibula.
The countdown continues for Marc Marquez as he awaits the first race of 2014 in Qatar. The reigning MotoGP World Champion sat out the recent Malaysian and Australian tests due to a fractured fibula, and acknowledges that he will be at less than 100% for the season opener, but is confident about participating.
The Repsol Honda rider talks about how he approaches his sophomore season in the premier class, in which he faces the difficult challenge of defending the title.
The question to which every team, rival and fan wants to know the answer: How is the World Champion after his injury? Have you recovered?
"We're getting better. The bone is mending, which is important, and every time I have a review with Dr. Mir he tells me that my condition is improving. I'm gradually exercising more, so we'll see how we are in Qatar. Clearly I will not be 100 % fit, but I shall try to be as prepared as possible."
How do you see the World Championship season stacking up, without having been on track the last two months?
"Obviously I would prefer to get to Qatar fully prepared after a normal preseason, but the situation is what it is. I'll have to be patient, especially in the first practice, as it’s been about a month and a half since I last got on the bike. The fact that the first Sepang test went very well and we were able to try many things gives us piece of mind, but it is clear that we have things still on the ‘to do’ list from preseason so we will have to work a little harder at the first few races. The priority in Qatar is to take things calmly."
In early February you were onboard the Honda but has the bike changed much from last year's machine?
"No, the 2014 bike is a bike very similar to last year’s. Obviously we had to adapt the bike to the new regulations, particularly in terms of fuel consumption. The chassis and swingarm are different, but the bike behaves in a very similar way. The important thing is that we have improved. With these changes and the base from last year we feel better, but now we also need to evaluate things at different circuits."
How do you see this season with a new battle between the three Spanish riders, the rejuvenation of Valentino Rossi and the Open class?
"The 2014 World Championship will be hard, and even more so having watched the preseason from home. There have been many riders setting good times. It will also be interesting to see how the bikes perform in the Open category, because especially in qualifying they could often place ahead us thanks to the soft rear tyre. Competition will be high –it is clear that the main rivals for us are Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa in theory, but Rossi has had a great preseason; he has a great pace, which is what he was missing last year. We shall also see what role is played by Ducati, the debut of Pol Espargaro in MotoGP and of Aleix Espargaro with the Open bike... I’m sure it will be a fun season for the fans."
After winning the title, this year you are the favourite to defend it. Do you feel the pressure?
"The pressure is there: To be champion, to defend the title. I'll have to be careful, because right from the first session we will have the world watching us. For the first race we have the excuse of having missed preseason, so also we ourselves will have to see how it goes. The important thing is to get points and then in Austin it will be another normal weekend."
You've never been the defending champion before. Is retaining the title a big goal?
"It will be interesting to have the experience of defending a title, as before I always won a class and moved on to the next one. This year, even though I am staying in the same class, it is a new challenge for me. I’ve never had this experience before and think it will be nice. I’m not running the number 1 late, because 93 has brought me luck and I did not want to change it, but I know I'm the current champion regardless and we will try to defend the title."
Finally, give us a prediction for the top three this season, in what will be the 20th anniversary of the Repsol Honda team.
"My prediction for MotoGP is, although it sounds bad: Me first and Dani second to cap Repsol Honda’s 20th anniversary, and Jorge (Lorenzo) third.”
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