Marquez and shoulder 'ready to fight'

Marc Marquez and Honda close gap at end of Qatar MotoGP test. Reigning champion's healing shoulder withstands heavy impact. Thinks Ducati being 'very smart'. Lorenzo? Strong over one lap, but 'very far' for pace...
Marquez and shoulder 'ready to fight'

Reigning five-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez is confident he has both the speed and strength to fight for the podium during the season-opening Qatar night race.

Like the other 2019 Honda riders, Marquez was "really far behind" on the opening night, managing only tenth fastest and "one second slower per lap".

But the Spaniard advanced to fifth (+0.411s) on Sunday before signing off the pre-season with third (+0.405s) on Monday, as the top non-Yamaha.

That was over a single lap, but in terms of race pace Marquez looked even stronger, setting a high 1m 55s average during a two-part 15-lap run, putting him on a par with the factory Ducatis.

"Positive day, and really happy, because the first day here we started really far behind, we were one second slower per lap," Marquez said. "Yesterday we were closer, and today we can say that we are in a very good level to fight for the podium.

"So this is the most important in a circuit where normally we struggle."

But there was also a word of caution about reading too much into the timesheets.

"Both Ducatis look far behind, but they are very close. So they are very smart, so there's no meaning to push and to be first [in a test], because you start the season with zero points."

The #93 also feels the true championship contenders will not become clear until the 'unknown' events following Qatar.

"In the first race, everybody will be fast, because everybody tested here. The real thing arrives when you go to Argentina, Austin, Jerez without testing."

But from what he can see so far, "On top speed we improved. This is something important. But still we are missing a few things that we were struggling with last year. And still we are there working, on the exit of the corner, to try to find better traction.

"Another thing is the front. We changed a little bit the chassis, but still it's difficult to understand. And we saw today, when the temperature dropped, all four Hondas crashed.

"So that means that we still need to work there, and try to understand why we cannot use the soft tyres, and we need to use the hard ones. But like I say, if in Qatar we are ready to fight, we are in a very good way, because it's a circuit that normally we struggle."

Marquez had been forced to limit his laps during the previous Sepang test due to the left shoulder operation he underwent in December, but was in much better shape this weekend.

"I'm especially happy because yesterday I did 58 laps. I was a little worried to see how the shoulder was today. The shoulder was OK, I did 53 laps again, and I feel ready to start the season in a very good way," he said.

As well as endurance, Marquez also gave his shoulder an impact test with the asphalt.

"I tested the shoulder very well! I crashed in Turn 6, on the left side, when I was completely straight.

"I was using the hard front tyre, because it's the tyre I feel better with, but the temperature dropped a lot, and it was windy, and I lost the front.

"But I tested the shoulder well, and it's OK. It's ready to fight!"

Marquez was joined by new team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in Qatar, after the triple MotoGP champion missed Sepang due to a fractured wrist.

The former Yamaha and Ducati rider finished fifth on the timesheets, only 0.040s from Marquez.

"Lorenzo today, I saw he did a very good lap. In one fast lap he was strong, but on the race pace, he's very far at the moment," Marquez said. "We will see during the race weekend. Normally, this is a circuit where he rides very fast. It suits his riding style well.

"I think he did a good job, and of course he needs time, but you know, you are in Honda HRC, and you have to be in the front…"

Marquez finished runner-up to Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso by just 0.027s in last year's Qatar race.