Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) continued his comeback from injury at Mugello today, qualifying 11th fastest for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old Spaniard – who won the MotoGP race at this track in 2014 – is contesting his fourth Grand Prix following a nine-month layoff through injury. Although he has already scored two top-ten results and led a race, Marquez isn’t yet at 100% strength. His right arm and shoulder still need more muscle, which is causing him some issues on the motorcycle, so he cannot yet ride in the style that took him to six MotoGP World Championships over seven years.
Mugello is particular challenging because it’s so fast, with many high-speed direction changes, which demand huge strength from riders. Marquez was 12th at the end of the first three practice sessions, so he had to commence qualifying in this afternoon’s Q1 outing, which he topped. He then sat out half of Q2 to rest the arm and save some energy, joining the session halfway through.
Marquez’s best Q2 lap puts him 11th on the grid. He knows that the 23-lap race will be incredibly difficult, but he also knows that it’s important to keep riding to maintain his rehabilitation and build up muscles in the arm.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) qualified 12th and will start the race alongside Marquez. The 29-year-old Spaniard, who stands tenth in the World Championship with three top-ten results so far, was ninth fastest in free practice, which took him directly into Q2.
Espargaro and his crew have made some important improvements to rear grip over the past two days, which made him confident of a good performance in Q2. However, he was unable to extract maximum performance from his RC213V because he chose the wrong front tyre for qualifying. He thought the hard option would be best in the warmer conditions, but the tyre was too hard, making the bike difficult to steer.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) will start the race from the row behind Marquez and Espargaro, after qualifying 15th fastest. The 29-year-old from Chiba was seventh fastest yesterday and would’ve been inside the top ten this morning, if his best lap hadn’t been cancelled for exceeding track limits. His pace here is good – he was an impressive third quickest in FP4 – but he didn’t have the one-off speed necessary in qualifying. He knows that a good start and a strong first few laps will be essential.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) qualified 22nd at the end of a difficult Saturday. The 24-year-old Spaniard and former Moto2 World Champion is making his MotoGP debut at Mugello, a hugely complex and demanding track on a MotoGP bike. He improved his pace this morning and was 12th fastest in FP4 but, like Nakagami, he didn’t have great qualifying speed.