Grinning Marc Marquez “contending at the front” on Gresini race debut

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However, the eight-time world champion maintains that he’s still “not prepared” to challenge for a first Ducati podium on Sunday.

With a smile on his face, Marc Marquez accomplished his goal of “battling with the frontrunners” during his Gresini Ducati MotoGP race debut in Qatar on Saturday.

Despite a challenging start that saw him drop to seventh after the opening lap, the former Repsol Honda rider secured his best Qatar MotoGP result since 2019.

Displaying his prowess, the eight-time world champion set the race’s fastest lap as he overtook factory riders Jack Miller (KTM), Enea Bastianini (Ducati), and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

This momentarily placed Marquez behind Ducati’s reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia, within reach of a potential podium finish.

However, Espargaro mounted a late charge, and Marquez ultimately crossed the finish line in fifth place, trailing race winner Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) by 1.872 seconds.

On a night when the top Honda, ridden by former teammate Joan Mir, only managed 15th place, Marquez’s performance also validated his decision to depart HRC a year early.

“There was a smile [when I removed the helmet] because I was battling with the frontrunners in Qatar, a circuit where in previous years I was usually far behind,” Marquez shared with

“I was there, fighting at the front, and even closing in on them during one part of the race.”

“The main error was on the first lap, where I lost some time, but other than that, I’m content. We also gained some insights that we need to work on for tomorrow, especially if we aim to perform well in the latter part of the race.”

Marquez elaborated that he doesn’t quite feel confident enough to push at the beginning.

“With Honda, I could attack strongly from the start, but with this [Ducati], I’m still getting accustomed to the bike’s reactions. I wasn’t able to attack as I’d like, and many riders passed me in the first 2-3 corners. We’ll see if tomorrow we can handle that situation better and maintain more consistency.”


Despite finishing just 1.1 seconds behind Espargaro and a podium position, Marquez insists he doesn’t anticipate being on the podium come Sunday.

“No, no, no, we’re not ready to battle for a podium,” he emphasized. “There are four or five riders faster than us.

“Today we finished in the top five, and as I mentioned on Thursday, I’m aiming for the top six positions, striving to compete every weekend. Some days will be better than others.

“The positive aspect is if we can deliver a strong second half of the race.”

While Gresini has clinched victories in the last two Qatar GPs with Bastianini and Fabio di Giannantonio, it’s noteworthy that Casey Stoner is the sole rider to have won on his Ducati MotoGP debut, back in Qatar in 2007.

Marc’s younger brother and teammate, Alex Marquez, secured seventh place in the Sprint, displaying an impressive performance in the latter stages of the race, with all but his final lap within the 1m 52s range…

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