‘Competitive’ and ‘strong’ were two words used by MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez to describe his feelings during the first session of free practice at Motegi, but the 25-year old remains particularly wary of the threat posed by Andrea Dovizioso.

Marquez ended a dry FP1 with the fourth fastest time, just 0.14s back of the lead factory Ducati, before, like his principle championship rival, electing to sit out FP2, held in risky damp-but-drying conditions.

Even though the timesheets – and lap-by-lap analysis – suggests there is very little between the rivals, 77 points apart in the title race, Marquez still feels Dovizioso’s riding, coupled with the Ducati-friendly layout of the stop-start Motegi track, means a “tough” task lies ahead.

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“This morning in the dry, the feeling was good, and with half-and-half conditions in the afternoon, we decided not to lap, even though I’m normally strong in that situation," he said.

“I felt competitive and strong in FP1 and I was able to ride in a good way. That said, while it’s a bit to early to understand where we are, I saw that Dovi is going to be fast this weekend.

“If you see a little bit the pace it was not incredible. We are very equal. But I know Dovi’s style and he was riding in a good way. So he will be tough.”

Marquez remains hopeful of providing the Italian with some weighty opposition on Sunday. Should he do so, he will wrap up the 2018 championship in front of factory bosses.

Acceleration and braking stability remain areas to work on, and the 25-year old vowed to maintain the “same mentality” over the weekend that has seen him win each of the past two races.

“But still remains tomorrow. The base set-up is not bad but still we need to adjust many things. So we’ll continue in the same way.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter, as we’ll keep the same mentality as always and keep working. We need to adjust many details, such as acceleration and braking stability. We have margin for improvement.”