Can Marques catch leader Quartararo as MotoGP season resumes?
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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - Championship leader Fabio Quartararo is hoping to pick up where he left off when the MotoGP season gets back underway after its summer break with the Styrian GP this weekend.
The 22-year-old Frenchman, who underwent surgery on his right arm in May, won the Dutch MotoGP at Assen at the end of June, the last race before the break, and is eager to climb back in the saddle.
"I am really happy that we are going back to racing again," said the Yamaha rider.
"I had a good time during the summer break, and it was good to get a bit of rest, but now I just want to be back on my bike again."
Assen was his fourth victory of the season and extended his championship lead over Ducati's Johann Zarco to 34 points with Italian Francesco Bagnaia, also Ducati, 13 points further back.
Yamaha have not enjoyed much success recently at Spielberg which hosts the Austrian GP a week after the Styrian GP.
The Frenchman was off the podium at both races held at the track last season but did finish third in the 2019 Austrian MotoGP.
"We know that Spielberg is not our best track on the calendar, but I did stand on the podium here before, so we know it's possible to fight for top positions. We will do our best."
Quartararo's teammate Maverick Vinales, who is sixth in the championship, will also be looking for better fortunes at the Red Bull track while the Ducati bikes hope to extend their dominance.
Of the six races held so far at the Red Bull Ring, Ducati has won five, achieving its 50th MotoGP victory here last year with Andrea Dovizioso.
Ducati also has had nine podiums at the Austrian track, the most recent with Jack Miller who finished second at last year's Styrian GP.
That dominance may help Bagnaia, who was forced to miss last year's two races in Austria after sustaining an injury to his right leg in the Czech Republic.
"This long five-week break has really helped me recharge my batteries, and now I'm ready for the second half of the season," said the Italian.
One rider that everyone will be looking over their shoulder for is six-time champions Marc Marquez who has been riding below his full capacity since returning from a nine-month layoff because of injury at Portimao earlier this year.
"I've enjoyed the summer break, I was able to relax with friends and family and enjoy it," said the 28-year-old who sent a reminder to his rivals of his powers with a sensational win at Sachsenring two races ago.
"It was good not just for the mind, but also for the body and I am feeling better and stronger.
"I've been able to increase my training, spending more time on bikes and even returning to riding motocross."
Marquez is 10th in the standings and unlikely to challenge for a seventh title but the Honda rider is excited by the prospect of seeing fans back in the stands.
"We know the situation on track will still not be simple and we have to keep working and stay focused."
Another familiar face at Spielberg will be Dani Pedrosa who is coming out of retirement at the age 35 to ride for KTM.
Pedrosa, who won three world titles in lower categories and finished second overall in 13 seasons, retired at the end of 2018.
He has been working as a development rider for KTM.