Nobody trusted Marc Márquez in the MotoGP paddock, no matter how much the Honda was not even close to the level of the leading motorcycles in the championship.
The eighth world champion, at 30, has arrived in top form and very hungry at the premiere of the new era of the World Cup.
And on Saturday, he surprised locals and strangers;
and a podium in the debut of the sprint race format.
“We have created a lot of expectation, like Fernando Alonso in Formula 1 ″, he celebrated.
His magnificent start to the course gave a new media boost to a category that has missed him, at least in the best competitive version of him, for the last three years.
Portuguese GP 2023: Schedule and where to watch MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3
His ordeal with the humerus of his right arm, in its place after four operations that led him to consider retirement, is finally behind him.
"I needed a calm winter to be able to prepare myself," reflected the man from Cervera after his stratospheric day in Portimão.
“What was missing from the bike at some points was physical, something I couldn't do before.
It has been a dream Saturday and it was not in our pools ”, he specified.
His preparation this preseason has been the first at full capacity and without setbacks since his serious fall at the opening GP of the 2020 season, the start of his nightmare.
Márquez encouraged the hectic day from the morning.
He had to break the track record up to two times to be at the top, being the smartest on the grid looking for the fastest slipstream.
"Maybe it's not the prettiest way, but it works," he acknowledged.
In the first qualifying, he took advantage of the trail of his new teammate Joan Mir to get the best time;
in the second, he found the wheel of Enea Bastianini's official Ducati to break the clock on the horn and turn the mood of a team in low hours.
The screams of Santi Hernández, his technician, staged the energy shot for the Repsol Honda members.
The Spanish pilot Marc Marquez is congratulated for his pole position this Saturday. NUNO VEIGA (EFE)
“You need an environment that feels the same as you do.
We are a family, and it is fantastic to be able to generate this type of reaction in my family”, smiled Marc after watching the video.
His 64th pole position in MotoGP (nobody has more) allowed him to join the group of the best in the sprint race after incessant work day and night that helped him to polish some of the weak points of the bike and his riding.
For example, in the last corner, before the finish line: "It's not just the bike that loses time, me too," he admitted.
His team did not hesitate to tell him things clearly.
"Look, this and that you do it wrong," he says that they told him in the box while they studied the data together on Friday night.
“It is not easy to tell a driver who has won so much, even if there is a lot of confidence, to change his style, to correct things.
The arrival of Álex Rins and Mir at the Honda house has borne fruit despite the poor results on the statistical sheet: beyond Márquez, Honda failed to place any other motorcycle in the top ten.
Instead, Marc and his team watched as their new teammates attacked some of the weak curves in their telemetry with a different method.
After studying their style and career they decided to copy them.
After an unprecedented results crisis in its history, Honda decided to hire a new technical director in the summer.
The Japanese Ken Kawauchi, also coming from Suzuki like the two new riders of the brand, has brought with him a new working method that they still have to adapt to.
In a circuit where the golden wing factory had never been on the podium, Marc managed to lift his machine by pulling magic.
“This is a very big injection of confidence for me and the team”, he underlined.
Knowing that it was the rider who made the difference, at Honda they set out to continue working to take the steps forward that their star continues to demand.
Before starting the weekend, the slap on the wrist was important: the bike was like the one that finished last year without shame or glory.
The surprise does not mean that the Japanese proposal is one of the weakest in the championship, with grip and tire conservation problems, a notable delay in the use of aerodynamic appendices and less straight line speed than the dominant Italians.
With a Ducati, all the riders perform;
with a Honda, it all comes down to the indomitable talent of Marc Márquez.