Alex Marquez got the chance to do family name proud on the podium before his multiple title-winning brother and team-mate Marc Marquez returns to the fray by scoring a spectacular second place finish in tricky conditions at the French MotoGP.
A double World Champion himself, Marquez has nonetheless endured a difficult start to life in MotoGP on the notoriously tricky Honda RC213V, his efforts coming under a harsher spotlight when Marc eliminated himself from action with his round one accident.
Leaving the younger of the two to hold the baton for the leading team, his best finish so far has been a seventh position, though it is in qualifying where he has particularly struggled, not least his 18th place on the grid here.
However, the slick conditions of a wet Le Mans transformed Marquez’s fortunes in a single afternoon as he scythed his way up the order to find himself in the thick of the podium battle during the final laps.
Getting the better of Andrea Dovizioso with three laps to go, Marquez went on to chase Danilo Petrucci in front but ultimately ran out of laps, settling for a second place finish that nonetheless represents the first podium of Honda’s title-defending season.
Pleased to see rain arrive, Marquez suggests the time spent passing Cal Crutchlow and then later Dovizioso could well have prevented him from claiming a shock win.
“It was a long race, it was a difficult race starting from 18th but I believed from the beginning it was possible to make something good today, but I didn’t expect the podium.” he said. “I didn’t have a bad start but I attacked into the first corner, which was a bit risky, and the first three or four laps I had to warm up the tyres because the front was a medium and the rear soft wasn’t easy to warm up. So I took it easy in the beginning and then I was getting more and more feeling, more confident, so I tried to go further.
“I saw the three Ducatis had a big gap, so I thought the podium wasn’t possible but when I was behind Cal, which cost me a few seconds to overtake him, I saw the Ducatis playing a bit and the gap was coming down lap by lap, so I thought ‘why not, I’ll try to do my best’.
“I overtook Pol but the crucial point was I lost a bit of time trying to overtake Dovi. He was so fast on straights and in the braking area. II tried to overtake him in a different place, it was the only place I could overtake him.
“I saw Petrux was a little bit too far, so three laps to the end I was like ‘Alex, don’t crash now’ because everything is here’ and if you crash no-one will remember the race. I am really happy for the result and the team, for sure we needed this podium. If we are realistic we need to keep improving in the dry but we are coming and I am really happy for that.”
The result gives Marquez a stronger shout at securing the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title from Brad Binder, who held a large lead over the Spaniard coming into this weekend thanks to his own surprise success earlier in the year with a win in Brno. The pair are now split by 15 points in the South African’s favour.