MotoGP 2014: The Leading Lights

© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool gets ready for next year with a profiling of the major players.

It's just a few days now until the new year and thoughts are firmly fixed on 2014. Riders are getting as ready as they can be – despite the testing ban – by training hard, having necessary surgery for nagging injuries, and mentally steeling themselves for another demanding season.

In the first of two parts, looks at the riders who'll be expected to be fighting at the front of the field in 2014...

Marc Márquez
Repsol Honda
Championship position in 2013: 1st
Total MotoGP starts: 18
Total MotoGP wins: 6
Total MotoGP podiums: 16

The World Champion heads into 2014 with a target on his back. Márquez was incredible in his first season in MotoGP, when he became the youngest-ever World Champion in history.

He remains with Repsol Honda next year, and will likely defend his title in the same way he won it: with a complete disregard for the limits. It was a strategy that left him fearless this year and which made for scintillating viewing.

Jorge Lorenzo will be on a mission in 2014© Photo courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Jorge Lorenzo
Yamaha Factory Racing
Championship position in 2013: 2nd
Total MotoGP starts: 102
Total MotoGP wins: 31
Total MotoGP podiums: 74

Two-times MotoGP World Champion and the man who pushed Márquez to the limit in 2013, Lorenzo will again go head-to-head with his fellow Spaniard in 2014.

The last time Lorenzo lost his MotoGP title – in 2011 to Casey Stoner – he bounced back in fearsome style to reclaim it in 2012. Expect a focused and more determined than ever Lorenzo in 2014. It'll be a recipe for an even closer fight.

Dani Pedrosa: 2014 will be a big year© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool

Dani Pedrosa
Repsol Honda
Championship position in 2013: 3rd
Total MotoGP starts: 133
Total MotoGP wins: 25
Total MotoGP podiums: 84

2013 was supposed to be Pedrosa's year. After finishing runner-up in MotoGP three times, the Honda rider was tipped by many to finally crack his first title. It wasn't to be, and 2014 will be an intriguing season to see how Pedrosa reacts.

Eight years in MotoGP, all with the factory Honda team, have given him mountains of experience. Now will be the time to make it all count. The belief remains that he can, but time is surely now of the essence.

Valentino Rossi continues with Yamaha© Photo courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Valentino Rossi
Yamaha Factory Racing
Championship position in 2013: 4th
Total MotoGP starts: 202
Total MotoGP wins: 80
Total MotoGP podiums: 147

He whipped fans back into a frenzy with a first win in over two years this season, but the truth was that Valentino Rossi's 2013 campaign wasn't what he'd hoped for. Back with Yamaha, the Márquez-Lorenzo-Pedrosa triumvirate proved too fast for Rossi, and he ended the season by parting ways with longstanding crew chief Jeremy Burgess.

Rossi has another year remaining on his contract with Yamaha, and 2014 will be decisive for The Doctor. Still one of the best on his day, it seems like breaking the top three will prove a challenge in itself again next year.

Stefan Bradl will be aiming high in 2014© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool

Fighting to break in

Certain to be battling it out for the top five in 2014 will be Honda riders Stefan Bradl and Álvaro Bautista. Both podium finishers in MotoGP, their aim next year will be to challenge Rossi for fourth and secure further podium finishes when the opportunity arises.

Andrea Dovizioso continues at Ducati and is joined by Cal Crutchlow, but the pair will be realistic in their own aims as the Italian factory continues its attempts to slowly turn things around and bring itself back to the fore.