Honda boss Alberto Puig feels Marc Marquez’s shot at victory in the Malaysian MotoGP was lost when he conceded too much time stuck behind Jack Miller during the opening laps at Sepang.

With the teams’ title still up for grabs in Honda’s MotoGP Triple Crown target, the Repsol Honda squad dropped to two points behind the factory Ducati team as Marquez’ saw his run of five consecutive wins ended by Maverick Vinales in Malaysia.

Having been put on the backfoot by a qualifying crash which meant Marquez would start the Malaysian GP from 11th place, the reigning MotoGP world champion made a stunning start to briefly move up to second place at the end of the opening lap only to fall back to third place behind Miller going into Turn 1 at the start of the second lap.

With Vinales bolting clear at the front, Marquez got back past Miller on Lap 3 but had already lost around one second to the Monster Yamaha rider which he was never able to recover.

Repsol Honda team manager Puig concedes the time lost behind Miller early on ultimately cost Marquez his shot at victory having planned the same race strategy which saw him take victory at Phillip Island the weekend before.

“The strategy was to try to start well and then to be with the front group, the start was critical after Marc had his hard crash in Q2 and started from 11th,” Puig said. “Our goal was to, as usual, try to fight for victory or the podium if that wasn’t possible.

“Marc was able to make one of his best-ever starts and had an incredible first lap, then he tried to follow Vinales. Unfortunately, he lost time fighting with Miller and the gap to Vinales was just a little too big.

“The plan was to try and repeat what he did in Phillip Island, but the competition were ready for it.”

Despite missing out on victory, Repsol Honda remain strong contenders in the fight for the teams’ title going into the Valencia finale which Puig says will continue to be its sole goal before switching focus towards 2020 preparations.

“The positive was that we achieved another podium and are just two points behind Ducati in the teams’ championship,” he said. “Our goal in Valencia will be to get the Triple Crown and Marc has had an incredible season with the MotoGP points record already after this race.”

Puig also paid tribute to Afridza Munandar who died after suffering injuries in a crash during the opening race at Sepang in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup. Puig acts as an Asia Talent Cup director and had close links to the Indonesia rider.

“Unfortunately, the negative this weekend is that we sadly lost Afridza Munandar from Indonesia on Saturday while he was riding in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup,” he said. “He was a good rider and a great guy. My deepest condolences to his family, friends and all of Astra Honda and his Asia Talent Cup colleagues that met and worked with him.”

 

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