Marc Marquez concedes his Repsol Honda squad faces a tough task producing the perfect start to his MotoGP title defence under the floodlights in Qatar but is content with the progress made at the recent test at the Losail International Circuit.

The four-time MotoGP world champion begins 2018 as title favourite having caught the eye during pre-season testing with particularly strong showings in Malaysia and Thailand.

Marquez concedes the Qatar test checked his progress preparing for the new season but is confident his factory Honda squad will be in contention with the front-runners at Losail against “several riders who are already very fast”.

“Having tested here so recently, we know there are several riders who are already very fast, within only two or three hundredths, so the race could be exciting and anything can happen on Sunday,” Marquez said. “We’ve also worked well during the winter tests and now we look forward to getting started.”

Due to the unique challenges the night race in Qatar produces for MotoGP, Marquez says it’s a tricky race for Repsol Honda but has faith the development work on used race tyres will help him close the gap to the front-runners. Marquez has won just once in the MotoGP premier class at the Qatari circuit, back in 2014, with two additional podiums coming in 2013 (his MotoGP debut) and 2016.

“The Qatar round is a unique one compared to the others on the calendar, and we’re aware that it’s not one of the easiest for us,” he said. “During the test we focused on trying to get as close as possible to the pace of our opponents on used tyres, and at the moment we’re not that far off.

“It will be a long season and we’ll continue working on our bike’s setup to try and make the best of every situation on race day.”

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