Qatar opener no certainty for Marquez

The new MotoGP campaign gets underway with this week’s race in Qatar and reigning world champion Marc Marquez is unlikely to have an easy time of it in the season opener.

The Repsol Honda sensation has dominated the sport in recent times, but his record at Losail is far from spectacular, with his only victory to date coming in 2014.

Marquez vulnerable in Qatar

However, at 3.30 he is the slight favourite to make a winning start, having ended last season with four victories in six races to ensure that the world title was his once more.

Right behind him in the win market is Italian Andrea Dovizioso (3.50), who took the chequered flag at Losail 12 months ago for Ducati by edging out Marquez by the narrowest of margins.

Dovizioso, who is closing in on 200 GP starts, finished second in the overall standings last season and appears to be a rider coming good later on in his career.

Yamaha look to Maverick talent

Another Spaniard, Maverick Vinales (6.25), should also be a major contender for the race victory, with Monster Yamaha having impressed in pre-season testing to lay down an early marker that they can improve their fortunes this year.

Vinales has further reason to be optimistic due to Yamaha having taken the honours in Qatar in five of the last seven years.

Lorenzo a long shot

During that seven-year period, three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo enjoyed three victories for the Italian-Japanese factory team and he will hope a move to join Marquez at Honda can help him return to the pinnacle of the sport.

However, at 11.50 to win in Qatar this time around, he is very much a long shot, with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 6.25 and certainly a better prospect – having finished third last year, less than a second behind winner Dovizioso.

The 40-year-old Italian has four Qatar GP victories on his record, the first of which came way back in 2005.

Marquez still very much the man

Over the course of the season, Marquez remains quite clearly the man to beat, as shown by him being 1.52 to be crowned MotoGP world champion for the sixth time in seven seasons.

The Spaniard, still only 26, has won 44 of the 108 races he has started in the top class and the only thing which looks like it could derail him this season is coping with new team-mate Lorenzo, who has occasionally proved to be a slightly too combative colleague for both Rossi and Dovizioso in the past.

Dovizioso, released from his partnership with Lorenzo, is 3.50 to win a first world title and his four victories last season show that he has the talent to go close if things fall his way.

Most neutrals probably dream of seeing the legendary Rossi win an eighth and final title before bowing out, but the Italian’s team-mate at Monster Yamaha, Vinales, is a more likely challenger at 6.25.