4:00pm Thursday 20th March 2014
The wait is over and the next 18 grands prix will decide my fate.
This is the crunch year and will have such a massive bearing on my future.
We were happy with the end of the season last year and especially finishing second at the Valencia test.
We’ve been delighted with pre-season, especially in Qatar, but that will mean nothing if we don’t step up to the mark.
It’s a massive challenge and I can’t wait to get started on Sunday.
Pre-season has been brilliant and now I have to get out there and show what I’m made of – bring it on.
The three-day test under those floodlights in Qatar last week sent a massive positive vibe throughout the team and what we learnt will be crucial when practice starts in the desert this evening.
There were no factory bikes at the test and we should hold an early advantage in the early practice session after three days of working on the set-up.
It was a dress rehearsal for the real thing and I managed to complete almost three complete race simulations.
If we can’t find decent settings from the word go, we should all get the sack!
I also survived from my first big crash of the season – a big highside from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha on a cold tyre.
I walked away with a grazed arm which was lucky, especially as my new teammate Pol Espargaro broke his collarbone crashing at the same test.
These first three flyaway races in Qatar, Austin and Argentina are going to be crucial for everybody and I think there is every chance of a different winner at each of them.
Agood points-scoring solid start is crucial for me and I don’t want a repeat of last year when I crashed out on my debut in Qatar.
You don’t want to experience that feeling of complete despair walking back to the pits to face the team.
Of course the factory boys, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa are going to be right up there, but it promises to be a right old fight behind them.
There is no doubt the open class guys will have some advantage, especially in the early stages of races, with the softer tyre, but I don’t think they have enough to make a big difference throughout the season.
The performance of the tyres will drop away and I can’t wait to get in amongst them in the final six or seven laps, which is always my best time in the race.
Stand by for some pretty scary final laps with some big points up for grabs.
My aim is simple this year. When that final race at Valencia next November is over, I want to have finished at least in fifth place in the World Championship and have in my pocket a new contract for the next two years.
I’m not asking for too much, am I?!
I’m not kidding myself, It’s going to be mighty tough.
I know better than anybody I have to finish the top satellite bike, beating the likes of World Champions Bradl and Bautista to have any chance of a factory ride next year.
I popped back to Oxford last weekend for the first time since Christmas and it was just what I need before the battle commences.
Plenty of Mum’s cooking, some long walks with the dog and great weather has set me up perfectly before boarding that plane to Doha.
It will be very different out there I promise you.
I face the biggest challenge of my life with real confidence and can’t wait to get started.
I know what I have to do and if I could throw in a couple of podiums along the way that would be perfect.
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