Honda MotoGP rider Marc Marquez says he was “not in my place” in the opening laps of the Portimao MotoGP race, likening it to playing football against older children in school.
Marquez, returning from an absence of nearly a year caused by a right humerus fracture from a 2020 Jerez crash and subsequent complications, qualified in sixth place for the Portuguese Grand Prix and was up to third after the start.
But after falling prey to a robust pass from Joan Mir and then accidentally nudging Mir in the rear tyre a lap later, Marquez began to descend down the order, having realised that he did not have the stamina to mix with the frontrunners.
“The hardest thing was the first laps,” said Marquez.
“I was not in my place. You know, [it was like] in school, when you play football, soccer, with the older guys.
“I didn’t have the control of the bike, everybody started to overtake me.
“I cooled down, found my place and as soon as I found my place I started my race.”
Marquez said he glanced on the lap count early on expecting to see 10 or 12 laps left in the race, and was surprised to find out he would have to do another 18 laps instead.
After regrouping in the lower reaches of the top 10, he briefly put Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro under pressure and managed his fastest lap of the race on lap 17 of 25 – only to soon ease off and settle for what ended up a seventh-place finish.
“I was trying to catch Espargaro again but suddenly my body said [enough], and the last six laps I was just sitting on the bike, trying to finish the race,” explained Marquez.
“But the most important [thing] was to finish the race. Then if we check, to finish the race only 13 seconds behind [race winner Fabio] Quartararo, this is something that is incredible.”
The TV feed captured Marquez post-race in what seemed like a state of complete exhaustion, as he slumped into the chair in his pit garage, clutching his head.
— Repsol Honda Team (@HRC_MotoGP) April 18, 2021
Speaking to media after the race, Marquez explained that it was more an emotional reaction than a case of fatigue.
“I like to keep the emotions inside, but when I arrived in the box, with all my mechanics, I just exploded and couldn’t control the emotions,” he said.
“It’s been a very long time since I dreamed of today, to finish a MotoGP race. And this was the biggest step in my rehabilitation, my recovery.
“To feel again a MotoGP rider was my dream, it’s what I did today, so when I arrived in the box – of course I was tired, I was exhausted and everything, but it was the explosion of emotions that I couldn’t control, but it was very nice.”