When Marquez entered the pit for the last time and took off his suit, his name was first before everyone on the timesheet. It was surely a surprise after spending a winter away from a bike while he was in rehab after shoulder surgery.
Marc certainly did not lose his talent in a couple of months and, on his flying lap, he had his say, but not everything that glitters is gold. There's a lot of work to be done. Lorenzo is out, Crutchlow isn't in good shape either, and not having physically recovered 100% certainly doesn't help.
“First of all, I'm happy to be back after being absent all winter. It's a great feeling,” explained the world champion, “but I have to confess that I was hoping to get better. It's really difficult, especially when braking on left bends and in changing direction. I'm ok doing a few laps, but riding all day is difficult. I don't have the strength for it. That's why I stopped after 30 laps. I want to manage my strength these days.”
Was your shoulder surgery that necessary?
“If I hadn't been operated, I wouldn't have been able to ride. They intervened at the very end and, without surgery, I would have dislocated my shoulder at every fall. Just think that, in the operating room, as soon as I fell asleep under anesthesia, my shoulder came out if its socket without anyone touching it. That's when the doctors started to worry (laugh).”
Did you ever think about getting surgery sooner, after you won the Motegi title?
"If I would have had surgery sooner, I'd be better now, but I would have missed out on some races, and I like racing. The problem was that, when I dislocated my shoulder in Valencia, the damage was greater than we expected. The doctors thought of performing one type of surgery but, during the operation, they realized that there were many tendons that were practically destroyed. I was supposed to be in surgery for an hour. I instead ended up being there for 4. This made my recovery period last even longer.”
How hard was winter for you?
“Every injury is hard, mentally speaking. You wonder if you'll ride again or not. If it'll be the same as before. This time, it was hard working every day. I had no break. However, riding again today made me feel the adrenaline, and it was like taking two weeks of vacation (laugh).”
The first race is in a month. Will you have enough time to get back in shape?
“That's what I'm hoping. Today was, in a certain sense, also a training day for me. I can ride, but I don't have the strength, yet. I have to do it differently. In Turn 9, I have to brake much sooner. We'll see if tomorrow I'll be able to ride a few more laps.”
You're not using your usual riding style?
“I can't. I have to be cleaner, and I've also changed my position in the seat. I lose a lot when entering left-hand corners, but, in right-hand ones, I'm fine, and there are more of these on this track.”
A big problem, considering the amount of work there is during these tests...
“Honda has worked a lot. There's a lot to try out, and the goal is to finish the test and find a precise direction to follow. The list of things to do is very long, and I don't think we can finish it during these days. I'll focus on the most important things.”
We saw a black motorcycle...
“I have two bikes that are a bit different: one is what I used at the end of last season, while the other is new. It's changed both in the engine and in the chassis. I used it only twice in the afternoon, and tomorrow I'll make some comparisons. The most important thing is to have started with a good foundation. The prototype that was brought to the tests in Valencia and in Jerez was already at the same level, if not better, than the 2018 bike. We took another step forward. We only have a few problems to solve. Last year started out worse. The engine has further evolved. To have more torque and a different engine brake, we've gained something and we've lost something, but that's normal.”
Were you able to start sorting out your ideas?
“I was able to understand many things about the engine, even if not perfectly when entering a curve, since I wasn't able to ride as I usually do. I have to be very careful because some parts that now look good to me may turn out to be different when I return to my normal driving style.”
Without Lorenzo, how important is having Bradl as a tester?
“Having Stefan is a big, big help. He's quick, makes precise comments that are very similar to mine. I'm very happy with his work.”
What are your plans now?
“I have a month to work on my body but, in MotoGP, the most important thing is to remain in the saddle. I know I'll be very tired at the end of these three days, but the important thing is to be in shape when I get to Qatar.”