For Marc Marquez, the Ricardo Tormo circuit represents the meeting point of a circle that will definitively close on Sunday at the end of the last lap on the Valencia circuit. Not only the last GP of the 2023 season but the last of his long career, 11 years and six titles, wearing the colours of the Repsol Honda team. A friendly salute rather than a farewell, "you never know in the future" the Spaniard was keen to point out, in what will undoubtedly be a weekend full of emotions despite the unexpected break-up not even two months ago in Indonesia. Because while it is true that Marc Marquez has chosen to move on to "rediscover that joy in riding" that he has missed in recent years, it is also true that human bonds remain in the paddock even when you change your colours and work colleagues. This will therefore be the summary of the Spaniard's weekend, who will only aim to enjoy the last nostalgic ride on the RC213-V before approaching the very different, and more competitive, desmodromic engine with the Gresini team starting from Tuesday's tests.
Your incredible story with Honda began right here in Valencia in 2012. 11 years later, after six titles won, it will come to an end full of emotions for you, when you will have to say goodbye to your team who are like a family.
"It won't be an easy weekend - admits Marc - I'll have to keep my emotions at bay because as you say it's a family. It will be a different weekend, not because of the tension but because of the emotions that it will naturally bring about. I don't want to say that it will be my last race with Honda because you never know, but it is certainly the end of an era, of a good chapter in my career in which we won six world titles. I will try to enjoy this last race with them because it won't be easy to imagine working, not even for myself, with another team. It was my decision, but this weekend I will spend it with them, the relationship I have with the Honda men is incredible and I would like to end the season with a good result".
What are the sensations inside the garage?
"Actually the atmosphere is quite normal, we are friends before being work colleagues. Even if next year we no longer work together we will continue to be friends."
You'll also carry a specially-liveried helmet to commemorate this long part of your career with Honda. Which of the many moments spent with them do you carry with you with the most pleasure?
"I wanted to pay homage to the team in the last race with them. In the photos on the helmet you can see the six titles, and then the one of the last podium at Motegi this year, but if I make the podium here in Valencia I will have to stick a sticker on it" - he joked - there are so many special memories. At the top is a Japanese Kanji meaning "thank you", in place of the ant symbol. Among the many moments I remember, the victory in 2013 was incredible, when we arrived in the first year in MotoGP everything exploded. It all started from there and it was incredible, but there are many more moments. This weekend I'll try not to think about it too much, otherwise it's easy to fall into melancholy."
Then the dedication to Honda with the words "we race together".
"It is dedicated both to the team and to the team, because the reality is that if one day I retire, I will be remembered as a Repsol Honda rider, I spent most of my sporting career with them and as much as I could change bikes and seats, I won't win another six titles. When one day people remember my sporting career, of these 20 years they will talk about Honda."
What is your biggest regret?
"The worst moment was definitely the decision to get back on the bike in 2020. It was the worst decision of my career and my stay at Honda."
Despite these emotions, what are your expectations here in Valencia?
"I can't say, it's a circuit that I like but we've struggled in the last few races. I'd like to try some crazy things but we need to be realistic and enjoy the weekend with all my people."
On Tuesday you will have the opportunity to test the Ducati you will ride next year.
"This is a subject that I would prefer not to talk about now - the Spaniard replies bluntly - due to the great respect I have for Honda. I will give my best with them until the last lap of this Valencia GP, then from Monday we will start work with the new team".
You are not the first rider to switch from one manufacturer to another, had you already had the desire to test yourself in the past, trying to win a championship with a bike other than Honda?
"I've never thought about it honestly, not to mention the fact that in the last year I haven't even won a race, let alone thinking about the championship. Even now that I made this decision, I did it because I needed to rediscover the pleasure of riding. If I had continued on this path I wouldn't have lasted another year."
The first year of Sprint races will also come to an end with this race. What is your opinion on this?
"I think they were great for the spectacle, but very physically demanding for us riders. Doubling the number of races created a lot more entertainment, and in some cases they were even more exciting than the races on Sunday, but it's also true that it was a very challenging addition. Many riders have repeatedly asked to reduce the number but it seems that for now the direction taken will not change in 2024. What is problematic, however, is the number of related accidents this year. Most of them are linked to the sprints and this is something we will have to work on for the future."
Then a comment about the title challenge between Pecco and Martin.
"A lot will be decided in the sprint. If Martin manages to recover 5 points on Pecco, then anything is possible. Obviously everything will depend on Jorge's speed. With speed you can change the race if you want. For Martin the choice is easy, he just has to attack , and he has everything to lose, while Pecco could decide to attack or defend, when I was fighting for the title I was only thinking about attacking."