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MotoGP Portugal GP

Marquez “cannot explain” his shock Portugal MotoGP pole lap

Marc Marquez says he “cannot explain” his shock Portuguese Grand Prix pole lap as he was “struggling a lot” on his Honda MotoGP bike throughout Friday practice.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

The eight-time world champion endured a tough winter testing phase with the 2023 Honda, and felt coming into this weekend’s first round of the 2023 season that he could not be considered a title challenger at the moment.

Indeed, Marquez was outside of the Q2 cut-off for qualifying at the end of Friday’s practices down in 14th and was wary that making it out of Q1 on Saturday morning would be no easy task.

But Marquez fired in a lap record of 1m37.675s on his first flying lap in Q1 and easily progressed through to the pole shootout as Honda’s only representative.

Then in Q2, having stolen a tow from Ducati’s Enea Bastianini, Marquez managed to produce a second all-time lap record at the Algarve International Circuit of 1m37.226s to snatch the first pole of 2023.

While confused about his form, Marquez said afterwards that he felt he was riding the bike better from FP3 and praised his team for improving “small details” on the RC213V for Saturday.

“I don’t know, I cannot explain because I don’t understand, honestly speaking,” he said about his pole lap.

“I don’t understand the situation.

“Yesterday we were struggling a lot and today it’s true that I started to ride in a better way, I improved myself and the guys yesterday did an incredible job and improved some small details.

“Today in FP3 I already felt good and smooth to ride. I was alone and was consistent.”

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

He does concede, however, that his only option to be fast on a single lap on the 2023 Honda right now is to utilise a slipstream – something he knows is “not the most polite way to do a lap time”.

Marquez is also doubtful he will be able to battle with the Ducati riders in this afternoon’s sprint race, as they have “a different pace”.

“It’s true that to do a very quick lap with the Honda, we need a slipstream,” he added.

“It’s not the best way, it’s not most polite way to do a lap time. But it’s one of my strongest points.

“So, if the strong point is there, I need to take profit of that. It’s not easy to follow a guy, but at the moment it’s the only way.

“I would like to push in front and have the lap alone. But we will start in pole position today and tomorrow, and it’s very important, let’s see if we can keep that level.

“I feel like for the race distance it will be very difficult because the Ducati riders have a different pace. But starting on the first row is a big advantage.”

What did the other front row qualifiers have to say?

Marquez heads reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia, who held pole with two minutes to go in qualifying and was unable to improve due to traffic on his last lap.

“I was happy about my first lap, then I was doing the second one and it was better,” said Bagnaia, who crashed in the preceding FP3 session and was left with just one bike for qualifying.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“But four riders were slowing down on the line and I lost my lap.

“But in any case, I can be happy with what I did and I think we are very competitive also for the sprint race.”

Pramac’s Jorge Martin completes the front row, and feels he was held back by a “disaster” front-end feeling on his Ducati GP23.

“It was a tough qualifying for me,” Martin said.

“I didn’t have the feeling on the front of the bike, and I tried on the first stint [I also came across] a yellow flag.

“So, on the second stint the front was a disaster. But even I could manage to make a really good lap.

“I thought it was a pole lap, but I did a mistake on T3 and that’s the reason we don’t take the pole.

“But the first row was the target, so I’m happy to be here. It will be challenging this afternoon. I feel strong, let’s pick a good tyre for the race and let’s try to be in the front.”

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