Repsol Honda boasts a so-called 'dream team' line-up in MotoGP this season, having signed triple champion Jorge Lorenzo to join reigning five-time title winner Marc Marquez.

The head-to-head between Spain's most successful premier-class riders is a mouth-watering prospect not only for fans and media, but has also sparked the interest of fellow riders.

On the eve of the Qatar season-opener, Lorenzo's two previous team-mates - Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) - were asked for their opinion on the Lorenzo-Marquez partnership.

"Well, it's very difficult now to understand what will happen, because to beat Marc I think is very, very, very difficult," Dovizioso said. "And unfortunately Jorge had some [injury] problems, so we still can't see the maximum of Jorge yet. But he has two years, so he has a lot of time to work on that.

"You never know with Jorge, the results he can achieve. So I think it will be nice to see that fight. I don’t know if it will be negative for us or positive. Everything can happen!"

"I think it will be very interesting," Rossi added. "It's one of the key [talking points] of the season.

"Usually when you have two great champions in the same team, you have some advantages and some disadvantages, for managing the situation. But usually it's more an advantage.

"So it will be hard to beat them."

Suzuki's Alex Rins also feels taking on Marquez at Honda is a tough task but 'not impossible'.

"I think it’s a very good [rider] combination. It will be difficult to battle Marc, because he has a lot of experience with this bike and sometimes it's difficult when you arrive at another bike and try to win. It's difficult, but not impossible.

"I think it will be difficult for us."

While neither Repsol Honda is fully fit for the season-opener, Marquez is in the better shape.

The #93 was able to take part in all pre-season tests, despite major shoulder surgery in December, and insists he is now close to 100 percent.

"I'm happy because I already forget my injury, shoulder problems, and I'm just focussed on the race weekend. I'm close to my 100 percent so this is really positive news for us.

"It's been a strange pre-season for Repsol Honda, but I'm happy with the pace we have and how I felt on the bike. So I feel ready physically and, about the bike, we still have margin to improve but we are only at the first race. there are 19 more."

Lorenzo thinks he is still one month away from recovering from a January fracture to the scaphoid bone in his left wrist, which followed last year's foot and arm injuries in Aragon and Thailand.

"I've been a little bit unlucky, because in the last six months I've never felt 100 percent. I'm getting close to that now, but I think I still need one more month," said Lorenzo, who was forced to miss the Sepang test due to his training accident.

"It was a big pity not to test in Sepang and also to be injured for the Qatar test. For sure I would be much better here. Things are like that.

"But I'm quite well to ride a bike, better than the [Qatar] test. Also Honda has some new modifications to make my life a little bit more easy, so I expect to be a little bit stronger than I was here ten days ago."

Pressed on the modifications, Lorenzo replied: "Honda will bring something here for Marc and for me, and also specifically some little details for me also. Unfortunately not everything, but some of them, so for sure we will improve in some areas."

While Cal Crutchlow has raised doubts over the front-end feel of the latest Honda, the new RC213V clearly has better straight-line performance.

"This is always good because it's free speed that you get in every straight," said Lorenzo. "Obviously it's not the most important thing because there are always lots more corners than long straights. But it's always good to have top speed and acceleration. It looks like Honda improved their engine and we are very happy about that."

But greater engine performance often comes at the expense of power delivery.

"We improved like you saw on the top speed and the Repsol Honda team did a great job on that aspect, but of course when you gain in some areas you lose in others," Marquez said.

"But we are working on that way, try to keep the same power and try to be smoother. It's always a compromise. But more-or-less we managed in a good way, so I'm happy with the step."

Marquez fell 23 times, more than any other MotoGP rider, last season - but said it's a price he's willing to pay again if the end result is another world title.

"Of course it's a number that I want to reduce, but if I need to crash 23 times again and be world champion it's not a problem for me. It's not a number I like, but in the end it's my way and I know when I need to push. But with experience year-by-year I try to manage in a different way."

Free practice for the Qatar MotoGP starts on Friday afternoon.

 

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