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Old February 8th, 2024, 03:14 PM   #1
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[] - Marc Márquez Sums Up His MotoGP Sepang Test

Marc Márquez finished up his testing at Sepang sixth fastest. We get his thoughts on the test and his season.

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Marc Márquez is fast on his Ducati, but he says there’s more to learn and a gap to close. (MotoGP/)The first MotoGP winter test is like the first days of school: an important moment that marks the start of the new racing season. Manufacturers show updates developed during the winter and study their opponents; the riders study each other and start to play their psychological game. Sport at the highest level is both physical and mental, and the 2024 season started as it finished.

Reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia topped the lap times on the final day of the Sepang test renewing the rivalry with Jorge Martín on the same Ducati. The factory rider fired a 1:56.682 during a blistering opening hour of action to better the Spaniard of* Pramac Racing (1 minute, 56.854 seconds), followed by Enea Bastianini (Lenovo Ducati) in 1 minute, 56.915 seconds, and Alex Márquez (Ducati Gresini) in 1 minute, 56.938 seconds. These four riders joined Sepang’s exclusive 1:56 club as the top 10 all went under the outright lap record. Not surprisingly, the top four bikes are all Ducati.

Behind them was the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaró (1:57.091) and in P6 a man on a mission: Marc Márquez (1:57.270) on the Ducati Gresini. Márquez was under the spotlight as he was making his real debut on the Ducati. Result? Watch out for No. 93. He will be the third wheel this year.

Many MotoGP fans were dubious about Marc’s switch from factory Honda rider to independent-team Ducati rider for the current season. The six-time MotoGP king hasn’t won a title since 2019, struggling through the last four seasons with a right-arm injury sustained at the start of the 2020 MotoGP championship. Several operations followed, and perhaps his best results are still to come. With his fiery determination, Márquez is ready to prove himself and the world that he is able to win more titles.

Can Márquez earn another MotoGP championship? If so, it may be the biggest of his career. (MotoGP/)Only three days of testing in Malaysia, and already you are just over half a second behind the world champion.

“Yes, I can say that I am satisfied because we progressed really well. I never felt tired and we improved every time. The first day was a bit chaotic because we had several technical issues, but on the following days everything ran smoothly in the garage and the rhythm improved. We did two race simulations on days 2 and 3. Keep working is the key.”

The race pace is very promising.

“Yes, we improved every time and now I need to focus on the time attack, as we are struggling with it. Now we need to verify if I will be able to reach the level of the front-runners. I’m still not there with the first top four who run in 1:56.”

Overall it was good; does this give you more confidence?

“I’m not too far in terms of race pace, but in terms of time attack I’m half a second behind. I’m not worried, but the key is to understand how many laps do I need to reach a good level. With Honda, two laps were enough to reach already the maximum potential—what we call the limit of the bike. This time I reached a limit, and then I saw that I could go a bit further, a bit further… So it takes more time because I am still understanding that bike.”

Are you already in love with your new bike?

“It’s never enough. Step by step I feel better, but I am still too stiff on the bike and I cannot play with my body as Jorge (Martín) or Enea (Bastianini) do. Pecco (Bagnaia) is not playing too much with the body, but he is fast. I am still in the study phase, and I need to improve the exit of the corner because this is where you make the lap time with a Ducati. With Honda was the opposite: The time attack was more in the entry of the corner. Of course, I need to change something in my riding style because especially in the time attack Honda and Ducati are very different.”

What about the difference between the Ducati bikes?

“I am studying the data of Bagnaia and Martín, but more than the bikes, I compare the riding styles, because I need to improve that, and also the setup and some electronics to adapt better to my style.”

Is the fact that Alex Márquez is fast good news for you?

“Last year he did very well here; he won the sprint and was second in the race. This is very good for the team, and in the test he did a strong time attack claiming a fantastic lap time behind the three factory riders. Then in the race pace we were closer, but I wish the best for my teammate and my brother.”

Are the results as you expect?

“If you create expectations, then it is easy to shift into panic if you don’t meet them. I am very clear what my personal target is this year—what I am looking for and I want to enjoy it in my garage and on track.”

How did you get along with the new team?

“We are starting to know each other. It is only four days. So it is different from my previous team where information was flowing after many years we were together.”

What is the minimum target for the first races that will be satisfactory?

“My target is a consistent progression. Then we will know; there will be ups and downs but I’m confident. Many people were dubious about Jorge Lorenzo’s move to Ducati. He had to adapt at the beginning, but then he started to win. Let’s see if every time I can close the gap a bit, because I’m close but not at the same level of the front-runners. Of course, I’m farther than where I would love to be.”

Describe the feeling when you ride the Ducati.

“When you ride, you don’t really feel the margin. This never happens to any rider, but what is true is that I feel that I am still rigid on the bike. This is why I wanted to do more laps to continue to play with my body and test new things.”

How do you proceed with the adaptation? Area by area?

“Regarding the adaptation, on a test, you can proceed area by area. But on a race day, you need to give it all. On day 3 I could ride with less mistakes and more fluid—and also the pace improved. On day 1 I couldn’t do too many laps, but day 2 was very useful to understand where we could improve the bike and where I had to change my riding style, and this helped a lot. In total we did two sprint race simulations.”

All in all, are you satisfied with your adaptation process?

“In total, I have been four days on the bike. Valencia is a very special track for me. I know I can be strong there and, in fact, even with the Honda I was fighting for the podium that weekend. I knew that the reality check would have been at Sepang. My focus is my riding style. I hope to return, riding by instinct and to fight at the top level. I know the level is there, but to be fast you need to ride a lot.”

What is the main difference between working with an Italian team and a Japanese one?

“Gresini is a family, a private team, and you cannot compare with Honda HRC, but in the end the way to work is similar. In this moment, we need to improve the flow of communication. More than the nationalities, the main difference is working with a satellite team compared to a manufacturer where you have always many things to try, and this means also that you have to be very precise and focused on the comments because this will affect the development of the bike. Here I’m focusing on understanding and studying the bike.”
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