until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


‘Ideal lap’, ‘incredible pace’ – the futility of Marquez’s heroics

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

“It’s strange to say, but it was a very good day for us.”

Marc Marquez qualified 12th at Barcelona, a grid position that would’ve been his season-worst in all but three of his previous MotoGP seasons, and finished 11th in the sprint, a result that pays no points. But what he said about his Saturday did not really sound “strange”.

It was repeatedly emphasised, particularly by Marquez’s team-mate Joan Mir, that the current Honda RC213V would be punished extra severely by the low-grip nature of the Barcelona track, and Marquez has anyway never counted the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as one of his best venues.

But rather than his fairly anonymous Silverstone and Red Bull Ring weekends – following his return from injury – here he really did catch the eye.


Firstly, he did so in Q1, by grabbing a tow from Jack Miller and getting right up to the KTM’s seat unit in the final sector to ensure he not only benefitted from the Australian’s reference points but also outpaced him.

It yielded a Q2 ticket that had seemed an incredibly long shot, via a 1m39.070s laptime that none of Marquez’s Honda peers have got even within a second of so far this weekend.

He couldn’t make much work in Q2, grabbing a tow with eventual polesitter Pecco Bagnaia but unable to keep up, but then went from 12th to seventh on the opening lap of the sprint, ultimately hanging in the points-scoring top nine positions for a stretch before ultimately bringing it home in 11th.

“It’s true that today the performance of the bike, the real performance of the bike, was able to do 1m39.7s, 1m39.6s, 1m39.8s. Like I did in Q2,” Marquez said.

“In Q2 I tried to follow Pecco, but already on the third corner I was alone. He was gone. So I did the lap alone.

“In Q1 I was able to find the perfect lap, with a bike [KTM] that is not like Ducati, it’s a little bit slower, a different riding style, and then I was able to follow him [Miller] – and I did an unreal lap. When I stopped in the box, I said, ‘I don’t want to go out in Q2’, I said ‘it’s enough in 12th position’.

Marc Marquez

“OK, it’s not the best way but it’s also my abilities, to follow the others.

“In the race, after a good start, the pace of the first five/six laps, my pace, was incredible.

“I was pushing extra. I was riding on the limit, and it was possible to have a crash there – because I was riding over my limits. But then when I saw that in those five-six laps I was able to follow them a bit, then I started to have graining, and then I said, ‘OK, now it’s time to come back and finish the race’.”

Within two tenths of him at the chequered flag in the sprint were two Ducatis. They were the seventh- and eighth-best Ducatis in that race.


“The difference [to Honda’s rivals] is really big,” Marquez said. “In some areas it’s very, very big. In the only area where you can be the same like them, or even better, is on the brakes, and going in, but that’s where you’re taking risks. You can do one single lap, but to do 12 laps is difficult, to do 24 tomorrow is even more difficult.

“For example, I never suffer arm pump, I never suffer physically, now I start to suffer if I want to follow that rhythm, I start to suffer with the arm pump, with everything, because I am over-riding the bike, the level.”

Marquez’s approach has changed after the summer break, into one of more risk management, but his Barcelona flashes have also showed that even those limited early-season high points – he was on pole at Portimao – are now unavailable, even at ‘full push’.


Fellow Honda riders Mir, Takaaki Nakagami and stand-in Iker Lecuona have been rooted to the back of the timing screens all weekend, with Lecuona actually beating the the former two in the sprint – which Marquez theorised was aided by Lecuona running the older-spec Honda aero rather than the much bulkier new set-up on the other RC213Vs.

“We’ve tried so many things different things on the bike set-up, but always the same comment – no grip. We’ve tried crazy things on the electronics, the traction, torque, TC, wheelie control. Always the same. No grip,” said Nakagami, who suggested Marquez may have found a better setting on Saturday and was hoping to follow the six-time champion’s direction.

Marquez, though, hinted it was just a matter of approach.

“If I ride, as I say in Silverstone, in Austria, here, I’m able to ride on the performance on the bike,” he said. “Like yesterday, where I was yesterday. I was there with the other Hondas. Because there is the limit of the bike. And Mir, Nakagami, Lecuona – but especially Mir, he’s a world champion, he’s a good rider. And there is the level of the bike.

Marc Marquez

“And yesterday I was with them. And today I put that extra limit, but I said already in Silverstone and Austria – I will have that extra limits in very single moments of the weekend. I cannot pretend to push all the weekend like this.

“Because if not, I will crash more times. Today, Q1, yeah, I finished the lap – but it was a big risk not to finish the lap.”

So, why risk then, even if the results on offer won’t make a tangible difference?

“For me it’s important, these moments, single moments, are important for my confidence, to myself, more than the result,” said Marquez. “To show that I’m still there. Because in the end, you start to have some doubts even in yourself, if you are very, very far.”

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