Curtain opener – The new MotoGP season gets underway at the Losail Circuit for the Grand Prix of Qatar on March 23. The event is one of the most stunning on the MotoGP calendar, with the race taking place at night time under floodlights. Lying on the outskirts of Doha, the track was completed in 2004 and cost $58 million.
The defending champ – Repsol Honda Team's Marc Marquez will once again be the man to beat. The Spaniard is the bookies' favorite after becoming the youngest ever world champion last year, while he was also the first to land the title in a rookie campaign since 1978. His preparation for the new season has been far from ideal, however, having broken a leg last month.
Bradley Smith's big year – Tech3 principal Herve Poncharal is excited by Bradley Smith's potential.
The challenger – Hot on Marquez's heels will be Jorge Lorenzo of Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, who missed out on the title by four points last season and finished in second place. The Spaniard, who won the world championship in both 2010 and 2012, comes into the new season in good form having dominated the recent preseason testing event on the Phillip Island circuit.
The don – Arguably the sport's most famous rider of all time, Valentino Rossi has won seven world titles during an illustrious career, and he would love nothing more than to add to that tally this year. The 35-year-old Italian's last title win, however, came back in 2009, but his fourth-placed finish last season was an improvement on his previous placings of seventh and sixth. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider has also impressed in preseason testing.
The nearly man – Marquez's Repsol Honda Team teammate, Dani Pedrosa, will also be hoping to usurp last year's champion, despite being in the same stable. The 28-year-old, who finished third last season, is MotoGP's nearly man having consistently placed in the top five since his debut campaign in 2006, but is yet to have secured the coveted top spot.
Brothers in arms – Two more to watch out for are brothers Aleix and Pol Espargaro. Older sibling Aleix, who placed 11th last year, is the more fancied of the two, with Pol new to MotoGP. The debutant does, however, make the step up fresh from 2013 Moto2 world championship success. They are the first set of brothers on the full-time MotoGP entry list since Kenny and Kurtis Roberts in 2004.
Fans' favourite – The circuit of Jerez, which will play host to the Grand Prix of Spain on May 4, has become one of the season's most popular venues. The track, built in 1986, is set in a slight valley in the south of the country and its good weather, along with some fine scenery, makes for 250,000 happy spectators.
In the country – The Grand Prix of Italy, taking place on June 1, is another favorite thanks to the setting of its Mugello circuit. Located in the scenic tree-lined countryside of Tuscany, the Ferrari-owned track is renowned for its greenery, beauty and superb facilities.
A cracking view – The Automotodrom Brno, home to the Czech Republic Grand Prix, is built in a natural bowl, meaning spectators have an excellent view of the race, while the track rolls across forested hillsides. The circuit, located close to the city of Brno, is therefore popular with fans and riders alike, who will sample its delights once more on August 17.
Home of Australian motorsport – Perhaps the most beautiful of all the circuits on the calendar is Phillip Island, home to the Australian Grand Prix, which takes place on October 19. A track steeped in motor racing tradition, it staged its first races back in the 1920s, while its breathtaking coastal scenery is unrivalled.