From past form, whenever Marc Marquez takes the lead of a flag-to-flag MotoGP race it's usually proven to be 'game over' as far as competition for victory.

So when the Repsol Honda moved into P1 during the early bike swaps following rain at Le Mans on Sunday, it looked like the eight-time world champion could well be on course for a first victory since breaking his right-arm at Jerez last July.

But Marquez, a best of seventh in his two previous races since returning to MotoGP action, only remained in front for three laps before a highside at the final corner.

Rejoining in 18th place, the Spaniard was again the fastest on track before being caught out for a second and final time when he lost the front while holding eleventh place, with 10 laps to go.

“The conclusion from the race is that when you are born a champion, you will always be a champion. Today Marc saw the chance to win in Le Mans and even with his physical condition, he tried," said Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig.

"He was leading the race, crashed, and then remounted and was again the fastest rider on track. It’s a pity he fell again but his spirit and the willpower he has inside is unbelievable."

Puig, trackside for the first time since Qatar, added: "What really defines you is your spirit. After all these months he has never given up. We could see in Le Mans he saw he had the chance for victory, even if in these circumstances it was untouchable at the end.

"Of course, we are not happy with the end result, but we are happy to see Marc showing us his true self, it hasn’t been lost after all these hard months.

"He wants to win, and sooner or later it will happen. He is not ready from a physical point of view right now, but Honda HRC knows this and waits until he is ready. Probably Marc needs more time, and we are here waiting."

But with Honda now experiencing its longest (19-race) premier-class win drought since 1982, it clear that returning Marquez to the top is not only a physical matter.

“Currently we are facing some issues, as we said in Jerez, and we are not hiding this. We have to improve the RC213V, we must," Puig said. "Marc’s circumstances are unique because he is still injured, and he is not 100% fit. His focus is returning to full strength step by step.

"But on the other hand, we have to improve the bike and this is what the engineers are trying to do and they know the time frame for this.

"The next two races (Mugello and Barcelona) are two very demanding tracks, especially Mugello, and we need to find a very balanced machine. Let’s see if we can prepare some solutions, arrive, and do our best.”

Marquez is now 64 points behind title leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha).

Younger brother Alex  went on to finish as the best Honda rider, in sixth.