Marc Marquez hopes his gruelling winter rehabilitation from shoulder surgery can pay off at the 2019 MotoGP season opener as he rates his fitness at “almost 100%” for the Qatar round.

The reigning MotoGP world champion has endured a tough winter break since undergoing shoulder surgery in early December, while he was forced to manage his physical state at both pre-season tests in Malaysia and Qatar getting up to speed with the 2019-specification Repsol Honda RCV213V.

Marquez has undergone an extensive physiotherapy programme which purely focused on returning him to full fitness for the opening race of the season. He feels the progress has been steady but concedes he won’t be at full fitness at the Losail International Circuit this weekend.

“Finally, it’s time to go racing once again,” Marquez said. “This winter has been different due to the surgery, I worked hard with five hours of physio per day with only one goal: arrive in the best conditions in the first race of the year.

“At the Qatar Test I felt much better than at the Malaysia Test and now I can say that I arrive almost 100%.”

Marquez has been pleased by Honda’s efforts improving his MotoGP machine, mainly focused on providing a smoother engine and setup which is easier on tyre consumption, and is hopeful of a strong showing in Qatar at a circuit which hasn’t favoured Honda in recent seasons.

“Honda have done a lot to improve the bike and in the test we were feeling strong, especially for a circuit which usually isn’t the best for us, but we have to keep improving,” he said.

“Qatar is always a special round, not just because it is the first of the year but also because of the conditions. We will have to pay special attention to the temperature and consider everything before the race.”

Marquez and Honda’s last win in Qatar came back in 2014, when the Spaniard won the opening 10 rounds of the season, while the Japanese manufacturer has claimed just three wins from a possible 15 in the premier class since MotoGP first raced at Losail in 2004.

Last year Marquez missed out on victory to Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso by just 0.027s in Qatar.