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Why Marquez's MotoGP rivals have reason to worry about his Ducati debut

OPINION: Despite the apparent calmness they projected at the end of Tuesday's MotoGP test in Valencia, there are a number of elements that would justify concern from rivals after Marc Marquez's declaration of intent on his maiden Ducati outing

Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Before last Tuesday, someone close to Marc Marquez and who can be included in what is defined as his circle of trust, was very clear in answering the question about how he thought the Spaniard would do on his debut on a Desmosedici. "It's quite simple: you just have to see the look on his face when he takes the helmet off after the first ride out on track."

The half-contained smile on the Catalan's face as he met the gaze of Frankie Carchedi, his new track engineer at the Gresini team, was one of the most popular images of a day that had the makings of a before and after in the MotoGP world championship.

Rarely has a simple gesture been so illustrative of the weight that had just been lifted off the shoulders of a rider who decided to leave his "comfort zone", as he himself described his position at Honda, to bet everything on a satellite team that can only offer him a bike that is theoretically inferior in technical terms to those ridden by others.

The hype generated by the prologue to Marquez's and Ducati's adventure was on a par with the media attention that accompanied the whole saga that led him to leave HRC. In many moments, it seemed that the title race between Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin was on the back burner and that what really mattered was to know the future of the six-time premier class world champion.

The first glimpse of that future came in difficult track conditions at Valencia, on a windy day and with asphalt temperatures below 18 degrees, yet Marquez rider only needed seven laps to move to third on the leaderboard, three tenths behind his brother Alex who was fastest at the time.

Insight: The factors that show Marquez's Ducati MotoGP debut was a genuine success

Davide Tardozzi, team manager of the official Ducati team, was very clear when asked for his opinion of what he had just witnessed: "It was impressive. Marc did much better than we could have imagined."

There were smiles for Marquez after his first run on the Ducati

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

There were smiles for Marquez after his first run on the Ducati

By 5pm, Marquez had set the fourth fastest time, being the second quickest Ducati, after a total of 49 laps, finishing less than two tenths off pacesetter Maverick Vinales. At the end of the session, most questions revolved around the Ducati newcomer.

"I was betting that he would finish first," Bagnaia dared to say.

Vinales reckoned: "Of course, I'm not surprised that he went so fast. He has the best bike now and we are talking about one of the best riders, if not the best ever."

Although the contractual ties he still has with Honda - he will be at Motegi this weekend for Honda Thanks Day - prevented him from talking to the press in Valencia, Autosport understands the two factors that most surprised Marquez about the Desmosedici were the traction and the 'low' physical demands to ride it, precisely two of the weakest points of the RC213V with which he struggled this season.

"I checked Marc's data before coming to see you [the journalists], and the truth is that it went very well from the first moment" Enea Bastianini

"Everything is easier," said the Lleida-born rider, who most likely kept some margin in his pocket if we take into account that he only had one bike in his garage and that, if he crashed, would have complicated things a lot.

At this point, there is now a period of more than two months to think about what impact the Marquez/Ducati pairing will have when the pre-season gets under way in Sepang in early February and, of course, once the championship begins in Qatar in March. If we add a little context to Tuesday's brief preview, we can understand that the rivals of Gresini's new signing have reason to be concerned.

For starters, six of the eight riders who ride a Desmosedici have been able to win races in 2023. The other two (Alex Marquez and Luca Marini) have several podiums, including Saturday sprint victories, on the Desmosedici. This leads to the conclusion that if all those who ride the Ducati have adapted well to its handling, someone with Marquez's track record will have no problem in that respect. Enea Bastianini's last reflection before going on holiday revolves around this argument. 

All eyes were on Marquez, and there were early signs of pace

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

All eyes were on Marquez, and there were early signs of pace

"I checked Marc's data before coming to see you [the journalists], and the truth is that it went very well from the first moment," said Bastianini. "He was the fastest of all of us [Ducati riders] at Turn 8 - his speed there is impressive."

In addition to the above, the great protagonist of this pre-season is stepping down from the trickiest bike of all, with which he has recorded 29 crashes in 17 events - he missed three due to injury and also did not ride on Sundays at Sachsenring and Assen - to get on the most balanced of all.

"The problem would be to go the other way round - but going from the Honda to the Ducati will be a huge relief for Marc," adds an authoritative voice in the rider's entourage.

At one point during the test, Marquez rode behind Joan Mir and compared himself. Despite the weight loss of the new version of the RC213V - some eight kilos - his impression was that the bike's deficits remained more or less the same, especially when measured against the GP23 on which he was riding.

Alberto Puig, until Sunday Marquez's team manager at Honda, didn't hesitate one bit when asked to look to the medium term.

"In the end, Marc was happy - you don't have to be very clever to know that it was going to be like that," said Puig, one of the paddock members who knows him best, and who has the fewest doubts about the fantastic prospects ahead of him.

Will Marquez and the Gresini Ducati prove a winning combination?

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Will Marquez and the Gresini Ducati prove a winning combination?

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