Marc Marquez admitted he was full of nerves as he headed out for his first MotoGP laps in nine months, on a track surface littered with damp patches, during opening Friday practice in Portimao.

But the eight-time world champion need not have worried.

Despite running wide a few times at Turn 1, the Repsol Honda star was soon setting a competitive pace, even leading the timesheets on his way to third position.

The 28-year-old was all smiles as he removed his helmet at the end of the morning session.

That scene was repeated at the conclusion of the faster FP2 session, held on a fully dry track, which saw Marquez sliding his way to sixth, as the top Honda and just 0.473s from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati).

"I was very nervous before FP1," said Marquez, who has undergone three operations on his right arm since the original fracture at Jerez last season.

"The track had some wet parts so it was really difficult to ride, then of course you always have some question marks. But honestly speaking the most difficult thing was the braking point. Even in FP2, every time I braked, I said 'I will not turn, I will not turn' and then the bike stops.

"The mind, the eyes, but especially the feeling of the speed on the entry of the corner is a lot. I don’t feel exactly where I need to brake. But step-by-step with more laps I'm beginning to understand."

Although Marquez has been careful to avoid giving any specific targets for his comeback weekend, he said the situation had so far exceeded his expectations.

"It was a great day, great feeling and honestly speaking, although the track conditions were not so good, immediately I felt good on the bike.

"In terms of feeling, in the morning I felt better than the afternoon, because the arm was fresh and I had power. Then already in the afternoon I struggled a little bit more to warm-up the arm and could already feel that the arm was a little bit more tired.

"But apart from that we are in a much better situation than we expected before the weekend.

"In the afternoon I start to feel a little bit the limit of the bike, but at the moment I'm just I'm riding the bike, trying to follow my way and the lap times are coming. It's not the most important thing now, but they are coming in a good way.

"The speed is there, but it's true that the main question mark for me is how the arm will react during the weekend and how I will feel when I get up tomorrow. Because if I have less power and then I will need to change a little bit the riding style."

If Marquez can defend his current top 10 position on Saturday morning then he will progress directly to Qualifying 2.

"Still I don’t know the target for this weekend because I still don’t understand the bike. It's strange to explain, but when I'm riding the bike I don’t really feel the limit."

With almost a year of development made to the RC213V, it's no surprise that it feels somewhat alien to Marquez, who revealed he has been using test and replacement rider Stefan Bradl's set-up from last November's race.

"I'm riding with Stefan's set-up from last year," Marquez said. "Tomorrow we will do a few changes but I don’t want to lose the way. I know what I have and now it's time to just ride.

"This morning I felt good, then this afternoon the feeling was not so good on the bike.

"The last lap was a little bit crazy, I didn't like the last lap but I had a nice save. But it's my riding style. It's true that with the new tyre I'm struggling more than with a used tyre. With the used tyre the bike becomes softer, the lap times are slower and then I feel much more comfortable.

"But with new tyres everything is more stiff and specifically at that corner, I think from 6-7, on that change of direction, my head says' now it's time to go in for turn 7', but the body didn't follow what I want!

"Then I just created a slide to finish the turn because it was the last lap and I didn't give up the lap. Things that of course with more laps on the track I will improve.

"But when I went into the box and I saw that I was P6 it was a great surprise because on the last lap I did many mistakes and I expected to be out Qualifying 2, for example, because the feeling was not good and I felt slow. But then I was inside.

"So the speed is there. This makes me happy, more comfortable, more quiet. Now everything will depend on my physical condition. Today was the first day. Everything was fresh. Tomorrow I know, because I can already feel, that I will be more tired and the muscles will struggle a little bit more.

"I know I'll also struggle a lot during the race. but for Jerez it will be better and for Le Mans it will be better again and this is the main target."

The next best Honda rider was Takaaki Nakagami, who took tenth place despite a nasty crash at the start of FP2. Marquez's younger brother Alex was eleventh on the other LCR bike, with Repsol team-mate Pol Espargaro twelfth fastest.

 

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