As if having his first shot at winning a MotoGP title wasn't enough, rookie Marc Marquez will also have to contend with his first bike-swap race in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Both Bridgestone in MotoGP and Dunlop in Moto2 have been caught out by the new Phillip Island surface, praised by riders for its grip and lack of bumps, but causing much higher tyre temperatures.

The Moto2 race has been slashed to just 13 laps as a result. MotoGP has opted to keep a near full 26-lap distance - but force all riders to pull into the pits and swap to their spare bike within 14 laps. Such a flag-to-flag format has only previously been seen in rare dry/wet races.

Marquez will start second on the grid for Repsol Honda and needs to increase his title lead from 43 to 51 points to be crowned champion with two rounds remaining. However nearest rival and Yamaha's reigning double champion Jorge Lorenzo will start from pole.

"The goal today was to get a front row start for tomorrow, and we achieved it," said Marquez. "We knew that Jorge and Valentino would be very fast over a single lap with the new soft tyre compound, something that they showed today. Jorge, Dani and Valentino have a great pace, but I think I can stick with them.

"After the issues with tyres the race will now be a flag-to-flag, which for me is the first time so it will be interesting - even if I would have preferred a shorter race but this is the decision from Race Direction. We shall see if in the warm-up we can try out some last minute things and then we will give 100%, as always."

Team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who still has a slim mathematical chance of the title, also hoped for a different outcome.

"Now we have been told that Race Direction have taken a decision to make the race 26 laps with a flag-to-flag. I don't think this is the best option but this is the scenario so we will do our best to prepare for it" said Pedrosa, who will start fifth on the grid.

The other options under consideration were to have one short race like Moto2, or even two short races.


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