Reigning champion Joan Mir and six-time premier-class title holder Marc Marquez had rarely met on track since Mir's MotoGP debut in 2019.

But the pair got a little too close for comfort on Marquez's return to race action at Portimao on Sunday.

Mir had shrugged-off the Repsol Honda rider shadowing his Suzuki (to the fastest lap time) throughout Qualifying 1, but was taking no prisoners as he urgently sliced through from ninth on the opening lap of the race.

The GSX-RR rider made his sixth pass of the lap when he ambushed Marquez with a late inside lunge at Turn 11, some light contact forcing the Honda rider to lift his machine.

It was the kind of 'out-of-my' move a fully fit Marquez would normally make, but on this occasion the #93 admitted to being vulnerable after a nine-month absense due to an arm injury.

After so long on the sidelines, Marquez said he was rusty when judging his braking in the pack - causing the pair to touch again a few corners later when Marquez clipped the back wheel of Mir's Suzuki at the slow Turn 3 hairpin.

Heart rates no doubt surged in the Honda pits as Marquez was again forced to lift his RCV, but he was able to keep control, albeit dropping a place. Mir was undisturbed and retained third.

"In the first lap, I wanted to overtake and then he closed the line. It was too late for me [to back out of the pass] and we both touched," Mir confirmed.

"Then I felt some hit in the next lap, but I didn’t know that was Marc."

Neither rider complained about the aggressive moves, which from Mir's side were a consequence of yet another poor qualifying.

"If you start in ninth position, it means this," Mir said. "If you want to fight for a championship, we have to start in the first row or we have to be aggressive [like this]. I prefer to start in the first row."

"The start was good but not perfect," he added. "We could not overtake three rows like we see other bikes doing! If you see I did not overtake in the start, it was in all the corners."

Although he dropped out of the top 3 twice during the race, Mir ultimately retook third position for his first podium of the season. He now sits fifth in the world championship, 23 points from Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), after three rounds.

"I think that the tracks at the start of the season - Qatar, here, then Jerez and Le Mans - are probably not the best ones for the Suzuki," Mir said. "But we fight for podiums in both tracks so far.

"If we got the podium here, in Jerez it should be a bit better maybe. I will try. I’m not thinking now about the championship. I'm just thinking race by race and trying to be relaxed and give 100%. Same mentality like always."

Mir's team-mate Alex Rins crashed out of second place late in the race.

Marquez, who scored his first MotoGP points since Valencia 2019 with seventh place, is 52-points from Quartararo with a scheduled 16 rounds to go.