MotoGP is going to have pull a few impressive tricks out of its bag if it's to top 2016, which was one of the most magic sessions in a decade of great title races.

Last year there were nine different winners, four first-time winners and bare knuckled, drag 'em outside, full-on punch ups at the front of the field - eat your heart out Formula One.

When the dust cleared at Valencia, Spain in November last year Marc Marquez had won his third world title from nine-time champion Valentino Rossi and fellow three-time champion Jorge Lorenzo.

One obvious reason 2017 may eclipse 2016, is that during the offseason half of the riders either moved teams or jumped up a class. The faces of the contenders might be same, but some of them will be piloting new machinery that will surely add a bit of vroom to the championship.

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The centrepiece of the battle for supremacy this year will again lie with the trio of riders who have fought for the bragging rights of a world for the past three years - Marques, Jorge Lorenzo and Rossi. The great thing, from a fans' view, is they are riding for different manufacturers this year.

Rest assured though, these three consummate riders will not have all their own way, all the time. The bloke most certain to fiercely rattle the cages of all three is Rossi's new teammate Maverick Vinales, who replaces Lorenzo at Yamaha.

Vinales, no doubt, has had a few sleepless nights in anticipation of this weekend opening round in Qatar as he has taken to the Yamaha like a proverbial duck to water. He set the benchmark when he finished fastest in practice during his first test on the Yamaha just weeks after the final Grand Prix last year. He has consistently been one of the fastest riders in every subsequent test.

It wouldn't be too long a bow to draw to suggest he might even walk away from Qatar with the winner's trophy.

Rossi is the veteran of the trio, and even at 38 he's still hungry and will only retire "when it is no more fun". Having the young pocket rocket Vinales in the same garage is sure to spur the Italian on and he'll be a firm favourite for another title.

Lorenzo has moved to Rossi's former team Ducati and will have the added impetus to finish the season with a better score card than Rossi did during his time there. Andrea Dovizioso showed the red machine had promise, but consistency is the key if Lorenzo wants to challenge for the title.

If Marquez keeps getting away with his over exuberance and doesn't crash heavily taking him out of the equation, he should be able to defend his title. He had a wakeup call during testing where he crashed and injured his shoulder. Maybe the others can pounce in Qatar and get an early jump on the Spaniard.

The three best riders in the world, with three different approaches on how to win races, on three different machines - how good is that?

Two other riders to keep an eye on are Carl Crutchlow, who became the first British rider since Barry Sheen in 1978 to win a race in the top class, and Aussie Jack Miller.

If Crutchlow stays on two wheels he'll be able to run at front of the field and hopefully collect a few podiums.

Miller had a difficult year in 2016 riding most of the season with injuries, or crashing. He did though, manage five top five finishes including his maiden win at the Dutch Grand Prix.

If he stays healthy he'll be a contender.

Four riders from Moto2 are now playing in the big league, which should add a bit spice considering they will all have something to prove. Well in their minds anyway. So watch out for some spectacular crashes.

MotoGP calendar

March 26:

Qatar.

April 9:

Argentina.

April 23:

America.

May 7:

Spain.

May 21:

France.

June 4:

Italy.

June 11:

Catalunya.

June 25:

Netherlands.

July 2:

Germany.

August 6:

Czech Republic.

August 13:

Austria.

August 27:

Great Britain.

September 10:

San Marino.

September 24:

France.

October 15:

Japan.

October 22:

Australia.

October 29:

Malaysia.

November 12:

Valencia.