As a comparison, Marquez’s final event before undergoing bone realignment surgery, at Mugello in May, had begun with the Spaniard twelfth fastest and +0.767s during Friday practice, over an almost identical 1m 47s lap time.
Previously, Marquez’s right arm and shoulder would then get worse as the weekend continued, but the eight-time world champion was delighted at the ‘progression’ during the pair of Friday sessions in Spain.
“I’m really happy actually, especially with the progression,” said Marquez, who finished the day as the top Honda rider. “In the morning I felt really bad and was struggling a lot to get the good position on the bike. I didn’t feel comfortable.
“But then the afternoon I felt better and the pace was faster. My body position was better and this is what I really like from the day.
“It’s clear we still need to work with the bike because we have some weak points but I’m happy with myself. We will see tomorrow. I know the mornings are more difficult that the afternoons for some reason – maybe to warm everything = so, short runs but all OK.”
Marquez: ‘If you are quiet and relaxed, you are last’
Although still in the early stages of rebuilding his muscles, Marquez feels he has no choice but to push hard in every session.
“Now, in MotoGP if you are quiet and relaxed then you are last. You can see how tight are the times. Even pushing now it is hard to be in the top ten,” he said.
“Always I am riding and pushing at my limits and sooner or later – and I prefer later to sooner – I know I will have my first crash but this is normal. It is part of our job and I accept that.
“I am here. I can do better with the condition of the muscle, but the bone and all the rest is perfect.”
Marquez acknowledges that Sunday’s 23-lap race distance will be the biggest physical challenge and he will probably have to back off at some stage.
“I know I will suffer [over the race distance] but then you drop a little bit the pace and you suffer less; this is easy. If you increase your pace and you are pushing more then you increase the demand on the physical side,” he said.
“The good thing is when you see you are dropping then you let-off and that is basically what I did in Le Mans and Mugello, the last two races, I was already competing in that way and I will still compete in that way.
“But, we will see if in the last races of this year if the progression is in a positive way and we can ride at 100% level from the beginning to the end.”
Marquez set fastest lap with Kalex swingarm
On the technical side, the main talking point of Friday practice was Marquez’s use of the new aluminium swingarm made by Kalex.
“We started with the Austin set-up: same chassis and settings,” Marquez said of his bike specification. “Nakagami is using another step and he did another evolution in these races when I was not there.
“Honda worked with Nakagami a lot but I prefer to start with something that I know and I will have time in the next races to try the [new] things.
“It is true I had the swingarm again, not clear. I did my best lap time with it but still we need to understand which is better for the pace because what I understood last year is that I was flowing more and that is normal.
“Still I need to have more kilometres. One thing is the speed, the other is the way to ride.”
LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami was the next best Honda rider on Friday, in eleventh place (+0.509s).