Reigning MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo has conceded that it will be difficult to beat Marc Marquez to the title this season, after conceding a 48-point lead to the Honda rider over the first nine races of 2016.
Over the initial parts of the season, there was little to choose between Marquez and his Yamaha-riding Spanish compatriot, but after finishing 10th at Assen, 15th in Germany following a string of accidents and a non-finish in Catalunya, Lorenzo finds himself well off the pace.
"It's true that the situation is difficult because Marc is slightly ahead in the championship but we will do our best, as every year, to try and cut the distance," Lorenzo said prior to this weekend's Austrian GP.
"We will keep fighting until the end of the championship!"
The venue for this weekend's race, the renamed Red Bull Ring outside Spielberg, last played host to a MotoGP race back in 1997 and plenty of questions have been asked about the circuit's suitability for two-wheeled racing.
During a recently-completed private test there, Lorenzo placed in sixth, just behind his Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi, although they were well off the pace set by the Ducati of Andrea Iannone.
"We are still far because Ducati, with new tyres, can take profit from all their acceleration and stability under braking. Let's see which tyres Michelin bring for the race," Lorenzo added.
Despite his somewhat sluggish test in Spielberg and the pace of Ducati there, Lorenzo has taken heart from the fact that Marquez opted to sit out the session.
"When the track is good and we don't have problems with grip I am competitive again, as we saw today. I didn't make a perfect lap time because I was very careful with the soft tyre and lost some tenths," Lorenzo continued.
"But when there is grip on the track I feel like before – like at Le Mans, Mugello and all the other grands prix.
"There are three or four corners that we need to try to put more space. More safety. Especially in the rain, because you can lose the front and – with bad luck – go in the direction of the wall.
"In that area it will be difficult [to change] because there are a lot of mountains, but it should be done because for sure it is not the safest track in the championship."
Meanwhile, Michelin confirmed on Tuesday that they have used the data from the above-mentioned test to create two new tyres that will be available for the riders.