MotoGP: Marc Márquez closes the gap: “If I had believed in the expectations, I would have panicked” | Motorcycling | Sports

Marc Márquez returns home this evening with his homework done and satisfied with the step forward made after the three days of testing with Team Gresini Ducati in Malaysia. The eight-time world champion, who went from less to more during these first days of adaptation to his new machine, finishes the first real test with the rest of the grid with the sixth best time and one of the best rhythms of the simulation. short race that most of the drivers competed this Thursday on the Sepang circuit.

“I am satisfied with the test. The progression has been positive and I have not stagnated. We have always taken steps forward, not backwards,” commented the 31-year-old Cervera pilot, before taking the plane back to Madrid. Despite the enormous expectations generated by his move from the indomitable Honda to the champion Ducati, he always kept his feet on the ground and sought within himself the same goal: to find a smile again and have fun on the bike. “If I had believed the expectations, I would have panicked the first or second day. I am very clear on my goal for this year, what I am looking for. I want to enjoy it in the garage and on the track. If I am higher, the better, and if not, I will concentrate on what I am doing and the rest will come,” he assured.

At the end of last November, after his first laps in Valencia with the Ducati GP23 which dominated the championship from start to finish in the hands of Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martín, the Catalan was already smiling from ear to ear when he returned to the garage and He crossed the eyes of Frankie Carchedi, his new technical boss. Márquez says he feels happy and excited about the working environment inside the garage, where it is always strange not to be with Santi Hernández and the rest of the members who have accompanied him throughout his 11 years at Honda. “Here they know the bike well, its secrets, and that helps a novice rider like me,” he noted. “It’s been three very good days. “We were able to try a lot of different things and get very valuable information,” adds the engineer.

Márquez was one of the drivers who completed the most laps during the three days of testing, with a total of 154 laps. The first day was marked by a series of technical failures on the bike, but the second and third went smoothly. In terms of pace, Marc is already well above his last experience with the Honda on the same track, and this Thursday he also managed to relax a little more in the attempt for the fastest lap, still far from the times. of the champion and runner- of last year. Bagnaia destroyed his own record with a time of 1:56.682, beat his 2023 pole by more than a second and took the lead from Martín. Two other drivers fell below the 1:57 mark, unheard of on the Malaysian track. “Martín, Bagnaia, Bastianini and my brother Alex, we will see if we can reach them”, underlines that of Gresini, very aware of who is currently the reference.

Still rigid on the bike, unlearning his 11 years on Honda and all its associated vices, Márquez recognizes that he has a lot of room for improvement. His big concern is that in a grand prix there will not be a hundred laps to hit the nail on the head, but rather in just 8 p.m. in the morning and another 8 p.m. in the afternoon he will have to find the limit and attack time. With the Japanese, I needed two outings on the track on Friday and I’ve already done it, with the Italians, it’s still a long way off. “I have said it and I maintain it: it will be expensive. We will fight, but it is not about getting on the bike and winning,” he concludes.

Overall, the tests once again demonstrated the unstoppable improvement work of the engineers, who transformed these motorcycles into authentic airplanes, with giant wings on all sides and technical innovations more typical of NASA. Even if the Japanese brands have taken a notable step forward, the progression of European prototypes once again places Ducati as the main reference. Aprilia and KTM, yes, promise to go to war and challenge the dominance of the Bologna factory.

You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes in Facebook And Xor sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.