Marquez tips Vinales to challenge at Phillip Island


Newly crowned MotoGP champion Marc Marquez expects Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales to be among the contenders at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

Vinales secured the maiden win of his career, and Suzuki's first podium since 1983, when he emerged victorious at Silverstone in September and has finished fifth, fourth and third in the following three events.

As one of the form riders heading into the weekend, Marquez, who won at Phillip Island last year, expects to receive staunch competition from his fellow Spaniard, as well as Movistar Yamaha pair Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

"It is one of my favourite circuits and we enjoy it a lot. I remember that last year it was an amazing race on Sunday, battling with Andrea [Iannone], Valentino and with Jorge and in the end we won the race," he said on Wednesday.

"We will try to repeat this kind of race and result but I know that will be difficult. The forecast looks unstable but also both Yamaha riders and [Maverick] Vinales are very fast."

The Repsol Honda rider claimed his third premier class title last time out at Motegi after Rossi and Lorenzo - his closest rivals in the drivers' standings - crashed out.

With the pressure now off and the celebrations behind him, Marquez is looking forward to being able to focus on enjoying himself on the track.

"Now the feeling is amazing, I feel much more relaxed and I already said that I didn't expect to win the title," he said.

"It was difficult to realise because nobody expected it, and the race was so strange. There are still three races remaining and now we will enjoy this last part of the championship and everything is perfect.

"Now it has come back and I am ready to be concentrated in this weekend.

"It was so good because the team was so excited because they worked really hard this season and they deserve this kind of result. Also [winning the title] at Honda's home circuit - you can imagine the Japanese staff were very happy."

With Respol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa ruled out by a fractured collarbone, 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden will be deployed as his replacement.

Having switched to Superbikes for the 2016 season, Hayden admitted to feeling emotional upon his return to the team with which he claimed the title.

"When I went in the box this morning and saw my number on the bike it was almost emotional for me," he said.

"I'm very proud to have won with the Repsol Honda team. Now, it's all very well to sit on it and take some pictures, now we need to open the throttle."