Reigning double champion Jorge Lorenzo expects a four-way fight during the 2013 MotoGP season, which kicks off at Qatar this weekend.
The 25-year-old Factory Yamaha star spent much of last season in a two-way fight with Honda's Dani Pedrosa, eventually sealed in Lorenzo's favour at the penultimate round.
Pedrosa's now retired team-mate Casey Stoner had also been a contender for the first half of the season, but Lorenzo thinks four riders will be in the mix in 2013.
“I want to keep the crown but it's going to be hard,” he said. “There are some great riders this year, I was surprised by Marquez' pace and also with Valentino on his return to Yamaha. Dani is also so strong after the last part of the 2012 season. We will fight really hard from the first race, I believe we are in good shape for that.”
Lorenzo may only have led two of the nine days of official pre-season testing, but he delivered more race simulations than any other rider - often setting a frighteningly high pace from beginning to end.
“The testing has been good, we have good pace and we are quite happy with our performance. We still have some areas to improve but our situation is not so bad compared to our competitors and I think we can fight for the win,” he said.
“Losail is a track where we usually find a difficult track surface, plenty of sand and because of that it is always very tough with the tyres. We will see how we can perform there. I am feeling very fit and ready so I want to start!”
Lorenzo took his first Losail MotoGP victory in last year's event.