Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) has been out of racing for nine months and today saw a chequered flag for the first time since he won the 2019 Valencia Grand Prix 518 days ago.
Despite this lengthy absence from racing and despite lingering issues with the right arm injury he suffered last July Marquez finished this afternoon’s race in seventh place, lapping only 0.5 seconds off the winner.
Three places behind the 28-year-old Spaniard was fellow RC213V rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda RC213V), who raced despite the effects of a very high-speed crash on Friday afternoon. The awesome response to the challenges faced by both men highlighted the fighting spirit of MotoGP’s greatest riders.
The secrets to the Marquez’s history-making successes – 56 Grand Prix victories and six MotoGP World Championships – are his talent, his determination, his intelligence and the performance of his RC213V.
This weekend he used everything in his power to commence what may become one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
On Friday morning Marques rode a MotoGP bike for the first time in 265 days and astounded onlookers by finishing FP1 third fastest. He continued to dazzle yesterday, qualifying on the second row of the grid.
Although Marquez’s injured right humerus (upper arm) bone has proved up to the challenge this weekend, his right arm muscles aren’t back to full strength, which caused him difficulties here, especially in right-hand corners. And nine of Portimao’s 15 corners are right-handers.
Marquez and his medical crew always knew this would be an issue as he continues his intensive rehabilitation. The arm will be stronger at the next race – the Spanish GP on May 2 – and will continue to gain strength as he continues to race and train during the summer.
Marquez made an amazing start to the race, completing the first lap in fourth place. During the next few laps he lost several positions, which was no surprise because all his rivals had already completed two GPs this year and were fully up to speed.
Gradually he settled into a groove, working hard to maintain a rapid pace, while simultaneously taking care not to go over the limit. Ninth for much of the race he moved up two positions as riders ahead of him overstepped the mark and slid off.
On his return to his garage he was given huge applause by HRC staff and the Repsol Honda Team. Now he will return home to continue rehab and physio work to ensure he is in even stronger shape for his home race, the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, on May 2.
The next man across the finish line was none other than his younger brother Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V), who bounced back well from a tumble yesterday. During the race the 2014 Moto3 World Champion (with Honda) and the 2019 Moto2 World Champion was finally able to prove his speed after two luckless races in Qatar.
The 24-year-old Spaniard started from 13th on the grid and started making his way forward, once he had got the better of Nakagami in an early duel. It was an impressive performance from the youngster, who is contesting his second season in MotoGP, which will give him great confidence going into his home Grand Prix at Jerez.
Nakagami was in such pain yesterday following his Friday afternoon tumble that he decided together with the MotoGP medical team to spend Saturday recovering. That gave him a chance to rest his injuries in the hope of being able to race today. The 29-year-old from Chiba bravely took the start, but in some discomfort and not at his best form. Therefore his ride to tenth place was an impressive result.
Nakagami started from the back of the grid – with his best lap time from FP2 enough to put him on the grid despite his non-participation in the Q1 and Q2 qualifying sessions – so he had a lot of work to do in the early laps of the race. An excellent start gained him seven places on the first lap. Step by step he made it into the top ten, partly due to the aforementioned misfortunes of rivals.
Now Nakagami will spend the next week working hard to ensure that his injuries don’t bother him too much at Jerez, the fourth round of this year’s 20-race MotoGP series.
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had high hopes of a strong weekend at Portimao, after showing impressive speed in Qatar, which wasn’t quite rewarded with results. The 29-year-old Spaniard certainly had some great speed here, but he is still getting acquainted with the RC213V – this is only the second track he’s visited with the machine – so once again he wasn’t able to achieve a good grid position. He was also in some pain today after a tumble at the last corner yesterday.
In today’s race the former Moto2 World Champion was aiming for another top ten finish, but he ran into a technical issue with the rear brake that forced him to retire. He is greatly looking forward to Jerez, a track he knows much better than Losail or Portimao, where he should be able to learn plenty more about the RC213V.
The MotoGP paddock stays on the Iberian Peninsula for the next race, which takes place at Jerez, a 340km/210-mile eastward drive into Spain’s Andalusian province.