This weekend the 2014 MotoGP officially gets underway with the opening race once again held under the lights at Qatar's Losail Circuit.
Once again the season is set to be dominated by the factory Yamaha and Honda machines though changes in the regulations may put Ducati, a team who haven't won in the dry since 2010, back in the frame.
Defending champion Marc Marquez will go into the new season still recovering from a broken fibula he sustained while dirt biking at home in Spain in late February though few believe that will rule him out of challenging for victory this weekend.
His biggest challenger is likely to be Yamaha's fiery Majorcan Jorge Lorenzo who is looking to add to his two world titles from 2010 and 2012 though he faces competition from within his own team as legend Valentino Rossi looks to rekindle his old form and fight for an eighth championship and first since 2009.
Dani Pedrosa too will be desperate to fight for the title after seeing perhaps his best chance slip last year. With all the buzz about his team-mate most believe Pedrosa's time has gone, but maybe, just maybe, he can prove that doubters wrong and put his name into the hat this year.
As I mentioned adjusted rules for 2014 could make Ducati once again a force to be reckoned with. The Italian manufacturer made the surprise jump from 'factory' class to the new 'open' class for 2014 and will have riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, who moves from Tech 3 Yamaha just like his old team-mate Dovizioso had done the year before.
Now you are probably wondering what I meant by the new 'open' class for 2014.
The original concept for this new class was similar to the CRT class of the past couple of years however was meant to make the bikes more competitive.
This year the 'factory' teams, Yamaha and Repsol Honda, will be limited to just 20 litres of fuel per race as opposed to 24L for the open class riders.
Development on their 1000cc four-cylinder engines is frozen and they are limited to just five of these engines for the whole season, however, the freeze is waived and the open class bikes get 12 engines over the season.
The flip side is that while Repsol Honda and Yamaha and three of their customer teams, Tech 3 Yamaha, Honda Gresini and LCR Honda, can develop their own ECU (Electronic Control Unit) software, while the open class have to use the standard ECU software created by Magneti Marelli.
Honda's move to the open class has caused controversy particularly with the Honda and Yamaha teams calling into question the ethos behind Ducati's switch.
As a result further amendments were made so should an open class bike either win once, finish second twice or finish third three times then some of the benefits would be taken away, plus those that haven't won a dry race in the previous race are eligible for the open class rules including those in the factory class.
With that cleared up and the main contenders outlined here are some other riders to watch out for this coming season.
The Espargaro brothers have shown good speed throughout testing in Malaysia and Losail.
Pol moves up to the premier class after winning the Moto2 title last year, the Spaniard moves into the vacant Tech 3 Yamaha seat left by Crutchlow and will partner Bradley Smith.
However much like champion Marquez, Pol will go into the new season still recovering from a broken collarbone he sustained at the final test at the same Qatar track just a week ago.
While Aleix has moved to Forward Racing for this year using the open class spec Yamaha engine.
Another Moto2 graduate is Briton Scott Redding, after finishing second in the thrilling battle with Pol Espargaro last year, Redding joins the Honda Gresini outfit however unlike his team-mate Alvaro Bautista, he will be running in the open class while the Spaniard is in the factory field.
Stefan Bradl remains another man who will feature heavily towards the sharp end. The German, still riding for LCR Honda, impressed on several occasions in 2013 claiming pole at Indianapolis though was beaten in the race by Marquez.
Picking an order is very difficult as always with MotoGP, Yamaha, and particularly Lorenzo appeared to be having tyre problems in early tests but by the final test in Phillip Island those worries had eased and while Marquez appeared to have the edge before his injury, his form once he is back to full fitness will be a key factor.
I do expect another epic battle between Lorenzo and Marquez for the title. The quest to regain his crown from the young pretender will certainly make the Yamaha rider even more intense than before, but with a year's experience under his belt and the fact he can only continue to improve, I believe Marquez to be the man to beat in 2014.
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