Marquez the man to keep Honda happy

Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:45am EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Honda were way off the pace on their return to Formula One with McLaren but they are sure to be on it in MotoGP when Marc Marquez starts his bid for a third successive crown with Sunday's season-opener in Qatar.

The 22-year-old Spaniard will be favorite again in a gang of four main contenders that includes compatriots Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa as well as 36-year-old Italian great Valentino Rossi.

But the landscape looks different to last year, when Marquez chalked up a record 13 wins for his Repsol Honda team, with the field looking closer and Ducati making a strong comeback.

At last week's final test at Qatar's floodlit Losail circuit, the top 14 riders were separated by less than one second.

While Lorenzo's Yamaha team are looking to mount more of a challenge, Ducati have impressed with a Desmosedici GP15 bike that looks set to end the Italian manufacturer's five-year winless streak.

Because of their lack of recent success, and decision to switch from factory to open category, Ducati have a range of allowances including a softer tire option than the works Honda and Yamaha teams.

However they will lose those once they have chalked up three wins in a season.

"At the end of the day, it's clear that our rivals are the Yamaha riders and Dani -- they are our rivals for the championship," Marquez, last year's winner in Qatar, told the website.   Continued...

Honda MotoGP rider Marc Marquez of Spain races during the third free practice session ahead of the Valencia Motorcycle Grand Prix at the Ricardo Tormo racetrack in Cheste, near Valencia, November 8, 2014. REUTERS/Heino Kalis