Marc Marquez, the youngest ever MotoGP world champion, and two-time title winner Jorge Lorenzo go into Sunday’s season-opener having spent more time in doctors’ surgeries than on the track this winter.
Marquez made history in 2013, marking his rookie year with a maiden world crown at the age of 20.
But the flamboyant Spaniard suffered a broken right leg while dirt-biking just six weeks ago and admits he is nowhere near 100 per cent for the opening race under the Qatar floodlights.
Marquez’s accident meant he missed two of three tests, having set the fastest times in the opening session in Malaysia on his all-conquering Honda.
“But the good news is that I’m getting better and the bone is mending,” said Marquez, who turned 21 in February.
“I’ve been exercising more, so I’ll have to see how I am in Qatar – I don’t expect to be 100 per cent, but I will try my hardest.
“The important thing is to take some valuable points and then get up to 100 per cent by round two in Austin.
“It’s difficult because I’ve lost over a month of training and five days ago I couldn’t even walk. I can walk now and I think if I can do that I should be ok on the bike.”
Lorenzo, second to compatriot Marquez in 2013 by a mere four points, has also been under the knife.
The 26-year-old needed three operations to fully repair his collarbone, broken twice in 2013.
Lorenzo won the final three races in Australia, Japan and Valencia last season and also had the personal satisfaction of putting Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi, a nine-time world champion, in the shade.
“In general I feel nearly at 100 per cent and I guess in Qatar we won’t have any problems to push to the maximum,” said Lorenzo.
Rossi will start his 19th season this weekend having won just a single race – in Assen – last year.
As well as fellow heavyweights Honda, the Italian believes his former team Ducati could spring a surprise with riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso.
The 2014 season sees 18 races in all, including a first trip to Argentina.
There will also be a batch of technical tweaks as organisers seek to boost the competitive edge of the championship with teams having to decide whether to race under a ‘Factory’ or ‘Open’ option.
All teams must use the same hardware but can opt to utilise their own software – that would put them in the ‘Factory’ option as Honda and Yamaha have chosen.
That would also mean 20 litres of fuel per race and only five engines during the season.
All other teams have selected the ‘Open’ category with 24 litres of fuel per race and unlimited testing. But they must all use the same spec software.
Moto2 world champion Pol Espargaro is one of four rookies in the premier class, but he sustained a broken collarbone during the final minutes of the last pre-season test.
The other three debutants are France’s Mike di Meglio, Scott Redding of Britain and Australian Broc Parkes.