Rider Marc Márquez, already a former Honda rider, gets on the Ducati for the first time at the Ricardo Tormo in Cheste (Valencia). Danny Vela (EFE)
It was cold and windy at the Ricardo Tormo circuit, but the paddock woke up early wanting to witness a historic moment for the championship. There was even a queue of fans, the likes of which had never been seen in a winter test. This Tuesday Marc Márquez made his debut with the satellite Ducati of Team Gresini, the bike with which he intends to rediscover victories after two blank seasons. It wasn't easy to leave Honda and his family on the track over the past 11 years, with whom he won six world titles. "I've never done anything like this," he said Sunday. "It's a risky change and I had to think about it a lot. In fact, I still have doubts," he said.
Those doubts probably vanished this Tuesday at 11.14 a.m. in Cheste, when he finally got on his new machine, Gigi Dall'Igna's masterpiece that has swept this year at the hands of Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia. His first stint with the Italian bike that sets the pace in MotoGP was eight laps, and in the last one Márquez was already third in similar rhythms to the best Ducatis during the last race of the year. When he returned to the garage, all new faces except for Javi Ortiz, one of the rank-and-file mechanics, and José Luis Martínez, the pilot's assistant, sat quietly, took off his helmet and didn't need to say anything to convey his feelings. He looked at his coach Frankie Carchedi, world champion with Joan Mir in 2020, and smiled from ear to ear. It was the same rogue face he made in his best days, the same sparkle in his eyes.
All smiles 😃 @marcmarquez93#ValenciaTest ⏱️ pic.twitter.com/aphzC7ZxH3
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) November 28, 2023
The whole grid was watching, and everyone was wondering what Marquez could do. They soon had the answer, although few had any doubts. "It will be quick right away. I don't think it will take long to get used to the bike, and it's clear that his level has no point of comparison with anyone," said one of the most experienced technicians in the championship, who suffered in his own flesh during his ten years of experience with Ducati. Carchedi acknowledged that he struggled to sleep last night, expectations sky-high. "Welcome to the family," his new mechanics wrote on the board to greet him after his first full lap on the Desmosedici. After the lunch break, after 21 laps, he was second on the timesheets led by the Aprilia of Maverick Viñales, already the best Ducati of the day. In the afternoon session, he was first positioned for a long time and looked comfortable and perfectly coupled to his new machine. Marc finished the day fourth, ahead of his brother Álex and just under two hundredths of a second off the best time of the day, that of Viñales.
Before seeing him for the first time on the back of his creature, Dall'Igna also valued the arrival of the eight-time world champion. "I'm very curious to see what he'll say to me when he gets off the bike, because he's surely one of the most important riders in the history of motorcycling and therefore it's an honour that he wants to race with our bike," said the Bologna factory guru. The head of the project reconfirmed that Ducati did not want to have the Catalan among its menu of riders, but the decision was exclusive and independent, the bet of one of its clients, the Gresini team that today is led by the widow of the former rider, Nadia Padovani: "Ducati did not want Marquez. He is an unruly rider, and we will have to be able to manage the relationship with him within the team and all the people who work at Ducati, because I think one of our strengths is the good harmony that reigns between all of us."
Marc Márquez's 'kansha' to Honda: "Whatever happens, I will be remembered for these colours"
The bike that Marc used on Tuesday was the same one with which Johann Zarco finished the championship this Sunday in Valencia. It did not have the latest evolutions used by Martín, Bagnaia and Bastianini, the riders with factory contracts. In this first contact, the presence of his brother Álex Márquez on the other side of the garage was a relief among the ocean of strangers, also a good starting point to get riding advice. "I've seen him well, relaxed. I know what it's like, of course I expected it," said the youngest of the family. The star of the day was unable to share his impressions in public due to contractual restrictions, as his relationship with Honda does not end until December 31. A microphone in one of Sky Italia's cameras caught his first words to his new chief engineer. "It gives me confidence, yes," he concluded.
From the first hour, when he arrived at his new purple trucks, the 30-year-old driver was loose and smiling. At 10:20 he went into the garage, and an hour later he was writing the first chapter of his new stage. Outside, some of the Gresini team officials were laughing out loud. Everyone was looking for the best place to witness the first outing of the Cervera phenomenon. They had never seen so many stares at their garage.
Pecco Bagnaia, the world champion, was right next door. When he went out on the track, not a single camera was pointed at him. "I had bet that I was going to be first, Marc has very high potential, so I expected it," he said when commenting on the immediate performance of his new teammate. "Impressive," said the crew chief of the number one, Davide Tardozzi. Today was also the debut of Pedro Acosta, and numerous riders changed brands and colours. Luca Marini, Valentino Rossi's brother, was making his debut with Honda and Marquez's old bike. But everything was put on the back burner. Marc Marquez's arrival at Ducati may change the paradigm again.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on Facebook and X, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber