Jerez de la Frontera - Reigning world champion Marc Marquez says his Honda team are looking for more consistency at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, after claiming his first win of the season last month in the United States.
The Spaniard stormed to his sixth straight victory at the MotoGP of the Americas in Austin to cut the gap to early championship leader Andrea Dovizioso to just one point after three races.
Sunday's race at Jerez de la Frontera starts off the European swing of the season at a track where Marquez has surprisingly only won once in nine attempts.
"Here (Europe), the circuits are generally different and more 'traditional', starting with Jerez, which is a tighter, slower, and more difficult track than the ones like Austin," said Marquez.
"We had a good test there at the end of March, and we'll approach it with a positive mentality. Racing in front of my home crowd and my fan club will of course add to the good feeling and atmosphere.
"We'll keep working hard and focusing on consistency, which is a crucial point for the title chase."
Ducati's Dovizioso again looks likely to be Marquez's chief rival this year, after seeing his title hopes ended only on the final day of last season when he crashed out in Valencia.
Marquez's campaign started slowly this time out, finishing second in Qatar before failing to collect any points in a bad-tempered race in Argentina, but he's confident he can win a fifth title in the top class.
"I think Dovi will be a great rival, as he was last year," said the 25-year-old.
"Anyway, this year I feel really good on the bike: in Qatar, Argentina, and Austin, the confidence was always there, and that's the most important thing.
"We're just one point behind in the championship, so we must continue this way."
Italian Dovizioso said: "We come to the first European round of the season first in the standings, a situation that is clearly much better than last year, and this is certainly positive."
Marquez clashed with Valentino Rossi in Argentina last month, with the Italian veteran saying afterwards that he is "scared" to race alongside the Honda rider.
The 39-year-old is already 20 points off the pace after that crash and needs to start winning to revive his hopes of a 10th world title.
"The first races of the season didn't go very well but we tried something positive," Rossi said.
"Last year we struggled a lot (at Jerez), but this year I think we can be better. We want to improve and fight for this championship."
Meanwhile, KTM have stepped up their bid to force their way to the top of MotoGP by announcing the signing of rising star Johann Zarco for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The 27-year-old YamahaTech rider is fifth in the standings, having shown excellent pace in taking three pole positions since moving into the top class last year.
The current KTM pair of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith have struggled in the opening three races, with the Spaniard winning all eight of their points so far.
"It is clear that we want to take another step in MotoGP. The first two years were about building up the project and to get everything running," said KTM motorsport director Pit Beirer.
"I'm convinced we can reach the next level with a rider like Johann with us."
World championship standings ahead of this weekend's Spanish MotoGP in Jerez de la Frontera:
MotoGP (after three of 19 races):
1. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) 46 pts, 2. Marc Marquez (ESP) 45, 3. Maverick Vinales (ESP) 41, 4. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) 38, 5. Johann Zarco (FRA) 38, 6. Andrea Iannone (ITA) 31, 7. Valentino Rossi (ITA) 29, 8. Jack Miller (AUS) 26, 9. Tito Rabat (ESP) 22, 10. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) 21, 11. Dani Pedrosa (ESP) 18, 12. Alex Rins (ESP) 16, 13. Hafizh Syahrin (MAL) 9, 14. Pol Espargaro (ESP) 8, 15. Aleix Espargaro (ESP) 6, 16. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP) 6
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) 57 pts, 2. Mattia Pasini (ITA) 47, 3. Alex Marquez (ESP) 47, 4. Miguel Oliveira (POR) 43, 5. Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA) 39
1. Jorge Martin (ESP) 55 pts, 2. Aron Canet (ESP) 48, 3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) 43, 4. Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) 37, 5. Enea Bastianini (ITA) 33