Franco Morbidelli says he is ‘full of joy’ with his sudden return to form during this weekend’s Argentina MotoGP as he consolidated a strong effort in qualifying by leading the Sprint Race en route to fourth at Termas de Rio Hondo.
The Italian - a three-time MotoGP race winner and runner-up overall in 2020 - has endured a curious downturn in form since spending a lengthy spell out through injury in 2021, Morbidelli cracking the top five just twice over the last two seasons.
Having remained ‘on trend’ at the 2023 MotoGP opener at Portimao last weekend by circulating well outside the points, Morbidelli’s name has made a welcome return towards the top of the timesheets in Argentina this weekend.
Going on to qualify fourth, Morbidelli made the most of a rapid getaway to get the hole-shot into Turn 1, even if a damp patch would send him wide on the exit and allow Alex Marquez back into the lead.
Undeterred, Morbidelli launched another wave of attack midway around the revolution, getting ahead of the Gresini Ducati to put him into the lead of a MotoGP race for the first time since the 2020 Valencia MotoGP.
Spurred on by a Yamaha M1 package that - compared with previous seasons - could hold its own relative to rivals on the full throttle back straight, Morbidelli held out in front for three laps before being overhauled by Brad Binder. Turning his attention to the podium, the combined force of VR46 Racing duo Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini would overwhelm Morbidelli, however, with three laps to go.
Taking the flag in fourth place, it represents Morbidelli’s best result in MotoGP since his run to third in the 2021 Spanish MotoGP.
“I had a good start. I was a bit too excited in the first corner and there was a big wet patch. I got scared and went a bit wide,” Morbidelli recalled. “But then I was able to recover and even lead the race for one lap or whatever. It felt unbelievable. It felt so good!
“Smooth weekend, it started well with a good performance on Friday and today we made a good start and battled with the Ducatis and Brad, it was nice to feel, I’m happy about that.
“The team really deserve this for their energy and dedication. I am sure we will work to close the gap to the first guys.
“It feels so good. I’m so full of joy. I don’t know if it looks like it. But I swear. I’m full of joy.”