The first save came during morning practice when Marquez ran wide and lost the front on the outside kerbs at Turn 8.

Marquez saved a much bigger moment at the same place in 2019 although Friday’s was still notable for being the Spaniard’s first through a right-turn since the 2020 arm injuries.

But the Repsol Honda star later revealed he had used his knee more than his upper body and insisted it had been more luck than judgement.

However, the following FP2 save, where he successfully fought to keep the front of his RCV upright as it slid across the turn 7 asphalt, was a ‘real save’.

“FP2 was a real save and FP1 was more luck honestly!” Marquez said. “In FP1 I was on the kerb and I lost the front, so I tried to push with my right knee on the floor and the bike stood up when we came back to asphalt.”

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Marc Marquez: ‘Far away’ for race pace

Having saved his Honda from crash damage, Marquez now needs a different kind of ‘save’ on Saturday, as he seeks to find several tenths of a second in pace.

The eight time world champion, still without a podium so far this season, was only 15th on the combined free practice timesheets.

“In terms of a race pace, we are far,” he said. “Far means 3-4 tenths per lap. Here in Le Mans 3-4 tenths per lap means 10 or more seconds at the end of race. So it’s there where we need to work and try to be on that 31.9-32.0.

“We cannot expect to improve half a second, but maybe 2-3 tenths and this will be good. But today we were far.

“In Jerez I was struggling a lot on Friday, then on Saturday I saved the day and tomorrow I will try to save the day again. But it will be difficult.”

Marquez, who followed Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia for part of the morning session, added:

“The grip he has is unbelievable. It is where he is doing the time, on the exit of the corner, but we need to understand the way to be faster because it’s not only him riding good. Also Bagnaia is very fast. Quartararo is very fast.

“At the moment we are far from the top 3-4, that are riding in another level.”

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Pol: Pace good, fast lap the problem

Team-mate Pol Espargaro began the day by setting the pace in FP1, but was one of the few riders not to improve in FP2, slipping to ninth on the combined timesheets as a result.

“I feel the pace is not too bad,” he said. “With the medium tyres at the beginning of the session and the end of the session this morning I was first. In the middle of the session I was fifth or sixth.

“We are there with the medium tyres. but the problem comes again with the one lap time. We need that lap. We need that lap where the Ducatis improve, honestly I don’t know how, but 1.5s in one lap. And we kill ourselves to improve nine tenths and we do it following or crashing.

“This is the problem. if you start on the fourth row, you cannot do anything, you are done. “

Espargaro also brushed off a close moment with Alex Rins, where the Suzuki rider seemed to be caught unaware by the #44 moving slowly ahead of him.

“Two laps earlier when I was behind him, I was coming hot and he was in the middle [but] it was not on the TV,” Espargaro said. “I was not as much in the middle as he was. I think he had the space to go in the corner but he likes to do the show.”