Returning eight-time world champion Marc Marquez will start his first MotoGP race since last July from sixth on the grid at Portimao.

The Repsol Honda star thus matched his position after Friday practice, but with the gap reduced from +0.473s to +0.259s and having slashed 1.2s from his lap time in the fully dry conditions.

But it's physical endurance not speed that remains Marquez's biggest concern.

The 28-year-old knew Saturday would be a bigger physical test due to the lack of muscle in his right arm and expects to suffer even more during the 25 lap race.

"Of course, I feel worse today than yesterday," Marquez began. "This is something that already the doctors and the physios expect and is a natural thing. They say that tomorrow should be worse but we will see.

"The most important thing is the bone is good, I don’t have pain there. But the muscles, the fingers, the elbow, the arm pump, is where I’m struggling more now.

"It’s lack of muscle, power," he explained. "For example, in the gym I’m working with different weights on the left and right. I cannot have the same weights on the right arm.

"Nearly all the corners here are on the right," he said. "In the left corners I start to feel the front tyre. I am playing and I like it. But in the right corners, still I’m pushing too much on the brakes.

"On the brakes, which is where you can play with the front tyre, the position of the body is not the correct one. I cannot load the front and I cannot push with the arm. So this is something where I’m losing a lot.

"For example, in Sector 4, in the two long corners I cannot push. But we know. And also the team know that now maybe we need to set up the bike in one way and then when I will be ready to push we will set-up the bike in another way.

"The question mark is tomorrow in the race... 25 laps. It will be very long! I will say that I’ll try to enjoy it, but I won’t enjoy it. I will suffer. But we already knew this coming here to Portimao.

"So tomorrow I’ll suffer. But then next week I can recover. Then Jerez be a little bit stronger."

Having begun the weekend with test and replacement rider Stefan Bradl's set-up, Marquez and his crew began to tune the RCV more to his style on Saturday.

"The confidence on the bike improved a lot," said Marquez, who was visibly teasing the limits of his bike more on Saturday, including a leg off front-end save. "We started here with Bradl’s base, Honda’s base. In FP1, FP2 and FP3 I rode with that bike, with those electronics. Everything the same.

"But immediately after FP3 I said I was ready to try things. We started to change the bike, more for my riding style – not something extreme, but already adapt the bike to my riding style, to what I need now.

"The step was big in FP4 in terms of feeling of the bike. In qualifying I was able to be fast."

Marquez was forced to take part in Qualifying 1 after dropping out of the top ten on Saturday morning, which he admitted was partly down to seeing younger brother Alex launched into the air just in front of him.

"It was a scary one. It’s one of the main reasons I didn’t improve the lap in FP3," Marquez said.

'Marc always likes to play these types of games'

Marquez latched onto the rear wheel of reigning world champion Joan Mir during both runs in Qualifying 1, helping tow the Honda rider to the top, then left the pits behind the other Suzuki of Alex Rins on his way to sixth during his lone Qualifying 2 effort.

"We normally don’t like it if someone is following us in that way. But it’s like this. We know Marc always likes to play these types of games," Mir said. "The problem is if we stop, then he’ll stop and it can make a dangerous situation. It’s better to push in front and then that’s it.

"I did my thing and he has not made me nervous at all. I have done my time as well, given the maximum and it is what it is. But he annoyed me on the first lap because he started slow, I ran into him halfway down the track and I have already lost my lap. Then I started to push and he took advantage of my tow. In Moto3 they penalise you for this and surely in Moto2 as well, but in MotoGP not yet."

Marquez insisted he had done nothing wrong and pointed out he has been the tow-truck target for slower riders on many occasions in the past and never complained.

"At no time did I slow down more than normal. I think the first lap I did in Q1 was two or three seconds slower than a normal time," Marquez said.

"I know that it makes a rider angry when you do it, but they have done it to me many times when I was fully fit. Now I needed it, I have done the whole weekend riding alone until then.

"In Q1 I needed to know where I was losing and I followed another bike, and I chose the world champion, the one who was riding the best in Q1. I could have chosen my brother too, who would have kept quiet! I have chosen the best. I have come out of box, we have met (on track) and I have done it.

"Then in Q2 with Rins something similar happened, but I have not followed him so closely either, because I didn’t think that I was going so fast. I only did a 1m 39.4. This is motorcycle racing and when you have a nine-month injury without being on the track, you try to learn from every corner."

Rins did attempt to shake-off Marquez as they engaged in a go-slow race out of pitlane at the end of Qualifying 2, but eventually had to no choice but to push since he was only ninth fastest at that stage.

"Marc was waiting for us on the second tyre," Rins said. "We went together out of pit lane at 60kph. We are like black horses waiting for the race. Marc is so intelligent doing those things. Little by little I’m taking this experience. I was playing a bit his game. The most important was we were respecting each other in the time. In end I’m happy, I was pushing hard in front and I did the lap time."

Rins went on to qualify in second place with Mir ninth.

 

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