Nobody trusted Marc Márquez in the MotoGP paddock, no matter how much the Honda didn’t even come close to matching the level of the leading bikes in the Championship. At the age of 30, the eighth world champion arrived in top form and hungry for the premiere of the new World Cup era. And on Saturday he surprised locals and strangers; He took pole position and a podium in the debut of the sprint racing format. “We raised a lot of expectations, like Fernando Alonso in Formula 1,” he said. His great start on the course gave a new media boost to a category that has been missing him at least in his best competitive version for the past three years.
He is finally over his ordeal with the humerus of his right arm, which was in its place after four surgeries and prompted him to consider retirement. “I needed a quiet winter to be able to prepare,” said the man from Cervera, looking back after his stratospheric day in Portimão. “What the bike lacked in places was physically, something I couldn’t do before. It was a dream Saturday and it wasn’t in our pools,” he specified. His preparation this pre-season was the first at full capacity and without setbacks since his heavy crash at the opening GP of the 2020 season, the start of his nightmare.
Márquez encouraged the hectic day from the morning. He had to break the course record up to twice to be in the lead and was the smartest of the field looking for the fastest slipstream. “Maybe it’s not the prettiest way, but it works,” he admitted. In the first qualifying, he used the lane of his new teammate Joan Mir to set the best time; in the second he found the steering wheel of Enea Bastianini’s official Ducati to bang the clock on the horn and cheer up a team’s bad hours. The screams of Santi Hernández, their technician, staged the energy rush for the Repsol Honda members.
The Spanish driver Marc Marquez is congratulated on his pole position this Saturday. NUNO VEIGA (EFE)
“You need an environment that feels the same as you do. We’re a family and it’s fantastic to evoke that kind of reaction in my family,” Marc smiled after watching the video. His 64th pole position in MotoGP (no one has more) allowed him to join the group of the best in sprint racing after working non-stop day and night, which helped him polish some of the bike’s and his riding style’s weak spots . For example in the last corner before the finish: “It’s not just the bike that loses time, I do too,” he admitted. His team didn’t hesitate to put things straight to him. “Look, you’re doing this and that wrong,” he says, as they studied the data together on Friday night. “It’s not easy to tell a rider who has won so much, even with a lot of confidence, to change his style and fix things. I want to thank you for the trust that is there to talk about anything,” emphasized 93.
The arrival of Álex Rins and Mir at the Honda house has borne fruit despite the bad results in the statistics: apart from Márquez, Honda could not place any other bike in the top ten. Instead, Marc and his team watched as their new teammates attacked some of the weak corners in their telemetry using a different method. After studying her style and career, they decided to copy her.
After an unprecedented earnings crisis in its history, Honda decided to hire a new technical director over the summer. Japanese rider Ken Kawauchi, who, like the brand’s two new riders, also comes from Suzuki, has brought a new way of working that they still have to get used to. At a circuit where the Golden Wing factory had never stood on the podium, Marc managed to crank his machine with magic. “It’s a huge leap of faith for me and the team,” he said.
At Honda, knowing that it was the rider who made the difference, they set out to keep working to make the strides forward that their star continues to demand. Before the start of the weekend, the slap on the wrist was important: the bike was like the one that finished last year without shame or glory. The surprise doesn’t mean the Japanese proposal is one of the weakest in the championship, with grip and tire protection issues, a notable lag when using aerodynamic appendages and less straight-line speed than the dominant Italians. All riders perform with a Ducati; When it comes to a Honda, it all comes down to the indomitable talent of Marc Márquez.