The world’s greatest riders return to the grid this weekend for the opening race of the 2013 MotoGP season under the stunning floodlights at the Losail International Circuit for the Qatar Grand Prix (April 4-7).
With seven-time champion Valentino Rossi returning to Yamaha and fierce Spanish rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa going head-to-head, it promises to be the most competitive season in recent years.
BBC Sport and British Eurosport will have all the action from each of the 18 Grands Prix covered throughout the 2013 season.
Last year’s world champion Lorenzo and 2012 runner-up Pedrosa go into the season as favourites following the retirement of two-time champion Casey Stoner.
Following two dismal seasons with his compatriots at Ducati, Valentino Rossi, now 34, returns to the Yamaha team for the 2013 season.
He dominated the premier class with the Japanese outfit from 2004 to 2010, winning four titles in seven seasons, including 46 race wins, adding to his previous three titles with Honda.
In Rossi’s absence at the front of the field, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and the now-retired Stoner emerged as the three leading title contenders, but while each produced some classic moments in the last two years, there were few genuine battles to the line between them.
Rossi’s return to Yamaha will rekindle memories of the intense last-lap fights he had during his period of domination, with the hope his presence back at the front will spark a few more classic MotoGP moments.
His age, fitness and confidence may prove to be too bigger obstacles to put a genuine title challenge together, but he will be highly motivated to beat his younger rivals, especially team-mate and two-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
After a strong first half of the season last year, Lorenzo was able to sit back and calculate his way to a second title.
With no need to fight for risky wins, he instead racked up a string of second-place finishes to take a title won as much by consistency as pure speed.
His greatest rival Dani Pedrosa, returning with Honday for 2013, lost the 2012 title partly because it took him until the eighth round to take his first win.
Once he did that though, an incredible run of form saw him win six of the last eight races, taking seven wins in total, one more than eventual champion Lorenzo.
If Pedrosa’s momentum carries through to this season then Lorenzo will have to bring the fight to his compatriot from the start.
Adding a potential spanner in the works for the established order will be promising Spanish talent Marc Marquez, who partners Pedrosa in the Honda factory team.
The reigning Moto2 world champion is probably the most hyped rider to join the premier class since a young Valentino Rossi emerged on the world stage back in 2000.
His feats in Moto2 – regularly winning races or finishing on the podium from the back of a grid of 30 or more riders – and his hard-charging riding style, have earned him plaudits from both inside and outside the paddock.
Three British riders will line up on this year’s grid including the 2009 World Supersport champion Cal Crutchlow, who will look to build on last season’s seventh place finish overall. with Tech 3 Yamaha
Crutchlow emerged last year as the first genuine British hope in MotoGP in well over a decade, taking two podiums in Brno and Phillip Island.
In doing so he ended a long drought of premier class success for UK riders going back since Jeremy McWilliams finished third in the 500cc British Grand Prix at Donington Park in 2000.
Joining Crutchlow in the Tech 3 team will be fellow Briton Bradley Smith, who steps up to the premier category this year having worked his way up through the support categories.
Michael Laverty also makes his MotoGP debut for after three seasons in the British Superbike Championship.
In the Moto2 series, Britons Kyle Smith, Scott Redding and Danny Kent will look to impress.
Kent has stepped up from the Moto3 class after impressing last season, with the 19-year-old ending his Moto3 career with the Red Bull KTM in brilliant style when he managed two victories in the last four races.
John Mcphee and Danny Webb are the British riders in the Moto3 series.
The 2013 MotoGP season begins in Qatar on April 4-7. Can Jorge Lorenzo defend his title?
Details of how to follow the first MotoGP race of 2013 below:
BBC Sport will broadcast more coverage of MotoGP during the 2013 season than ever before.
As usual all 18 races will be live on BBC TV with Matt Roberts leading the presenting team alongside pit-lane reporter Azi Farni.
Commentary on all MotoGP qualifying sessions and races comes from the regular duo of Charlie Cox and Steve Parrish.
All races will be once again shown live on BBC Two and in high-definition on the new BBC Two HD channel, with the exception of Texas (April 21 – live on BBC Three) and Assen (29 June – live on BBC Red Button).
For the first time since the BBC acquired the rights to screen MotoGP in 2003, all Friday free practice sessions from all three classes (MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3) will now be available to watch live via the Red Button or through the BBC Sport website.
In another BBC first, selected MotoGP qualifying sessions – featuring the new Formula 1 style format – will be shown live on BBC network TV (either BBC One or BBC Two), with some also on the Red Button.
All of the BBC’s MotoGP output will be streamed live via the BBC Sport website and available to view via smartphones and tablets via the BBC Sport app, or via an internet-connected TV.
As always, coverage will include full pre-race build up, bringing all the stories from the paddock and the starting grid.
At the European rounds, with the exception of Assen, BBC Red Button will air a half-hour ‘MotoGP Extra’ programme with Matt Roberts and the BBC team giving further reaction to all the on-track action.
British Eurosport will continue to display its credentials as the self-styled ‘home of motorbikes’ on UK television with its extensive coverage of the 2013 MotoGP season.
The pan-European broadcaster will screen live action from every race weekend of the 2013 season on either British Eurosport or British Eurosport 2, including live coverage of free practice sessions from all three classes, as well as qualifying sessions and live Moto2 and Moto3 race action.
Eurosport will continue to show the premier MotoGP races on delay with the full race broadcast beginning approimately one hour after its conclusion.
All of Eurosport’s coverage will be broadcast in stunning high-definition on either British Eurosport HD or British Eurosport 2 HD.
Popular commentary duo Toby Moody and Julian Ryder will again be in the commentary box taking viewers through the action.
British Eurosport is the ‘Home of Bikes’ on British television, showcasing MotoGP, World Superbikes and British Superbikes races throughout the 2013 season.
Qatar Grand Prix – Round 1, Losail Thursday 4th April Moto3: Free Practice 1 – Start: 16:00 Moto2: Free Practice 1 – Start: 16:55 MotoGP: Free Practice 1 – Start: 17:55 Moto3: Free Practice 2 – Start: 18:55 Moto2: Free Practice 2 – Start: 19:50 LIVE: 3.45pm-8.45pm – BBC Red Button LIVE: 5.45pm-8.40pm – British Eurosport 2 . Friday 5th April MotoGP: Free Practice 2 – Start: 16:00 Moto3: Free Practice 3 – Start: 17:00 Moto2: Free Practice 3 – Start: 17:55 MotoGP: Free Practice 3 – Start: 18:55 LIVE: 3.45pm-8.00pm – BBC Red Button LIVE: 3.50pm-7.45pm – British Eurosport 2 Saturday 6th April Moto3 – Qualifying | Start: 16:00 Moto2 – Qualifying | Start: 16:55 LIVE: 3.45pm-5.45pm – BBC Sport Website LIVE: 3.50pm-5.45pm – British Eurosport 2 Delayed: 7.30pm-9.30pm – BBC Red Button MotoGP – Qualifying | Start: 17:55 LIVE: 5.45pm-7.30pm – BBC Red Button LIVE: 5.45pm-7.30pm – British Eurosport 2 Sunday 7th April Moto3: Qatar Grand Prix – Race | Start: 17:00 Moto2: Qatar Grand Prix – Race | Start: 18:20 LIVE: 4.45pm-7.30pm – BBC Red Button LIVE: 4.45pm-7.25pm – British Eurosport 2 MotoGP: Qatar Grand Prix – RACE | Start: 20:00 LIVE: 7.30pm-9.00pm – BBC Two / BBC Two HD Delayed: 9.00pm-10.30pm – British Eurosport 2 . April 4-7 Qatar Grand Prix – Round 1/18 Race start: 8.00pm April 20-22 Grand Prix of The Americas – Round 2/18 Race start: 8.00pm May 3-5 Spanish Grand Prix – Round 3/18 Race start: 1.00pm May 17-19 French Grand Prix – Round 4/18 Race start: 1.00pm May 31-June 2 Italian Grand Prix – Round 5/18 Race start: 1.00pm June 14-16 Catalan Grand Prix – Round 6/18 Race start: 1.00pm June 27-29 Assen TT – Round 7/18 Race start: 1.00pm July 12-14 German Grand Prix – Round 8/18 Race start: 1.00pm July 19-21 United States Grand Prix – Round 9/18 Race start: 10.00pm August 16-18 Indianapolis Grand Prix – Round 10/18 Race start: 7.00pm August 23-25 Czech Republic Grand Prix – Round 11/18 Race start: 1.00pm August 30-September 1 British Grand Prix – Round 12/18 Race start: 1.00pm September 13-15 San Marino Grand Prix – Round 13/18 Race start: 1.00pm September 27-29 Aragon Grand Prix – Round 14/18 Race start: 1.00pm October 11-13 Malaysian Grand Prix – Round 15/18 Race start: 9.00am October 18-20 Australian Grand Prix – Round 16/18 Race start: 6.00am October 25-27 Japanese Grand Prix – Round 17/18 Race start: 6.00am November 8-10 Valencia Grand Prix – Round 18/18 Race start: 1.00pm . .