Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez was almost back to his best on Sunday with a breathtaking battle for victory at Phillip Island.
While the eight-time champion was forced to settle for second, by a mere 0.186s to Suzuki’s Alex Rins as the Australian Grand Prix drew to a dramatic close, the late-race fight proved the Spaniard’s rehabilitation on his right shoulder and arm - after four rounds of surgery and a pain-filled two years - was nearing completion.
“For me, the second place was so important,” Marquez explained from Phillip Island after claiming his 100th podium in the premier class. “When I came back after the injury, the test in Misano, then the race in Japan, the race in Thailand, it was important to understand that, inside me, the speed is there, when I feel okay, the speed is there.
“But it’s true that now we need to work hard and the body needs to follow that speed, so step-by-step, it’s getting better and better. Here is a left circuit, so it helps a lot, and it’s true that it’s only two right corners where you push really hard - that is four and ten.
"In Malaysia, we will struggle more, I know but we will have time in winter so, step-by-step, we are getting better.
“It was the best way to keep the motivation for me, for the team, for Honda, because Honda is also in a difficult situation. They are working hard, as we see this weekend, and it’s getting better and better.
“We chose the correct tyre with the soft rear tyre,” he continued on his race strategy, despite it causing a few raised eyebrows on the grid. “I felt good and I was managing the race a lot in the beginning, then later on I was struggling a bit with grip but I enjoyed it a lot.
“It doesn't matter what position, I finished second and I tried to win. I gave everything, but Alex did a really good last lap. I gave everything I had, I enjoyed it a lot, so many overtakes. In some areas we still need to improve but Honda is working, and step by step we're getting better and better.
“I’m really happy with this podium,” Marquez admitted. “It means a lot to me, it means a lot to the people who have helped me in this tough season, and to all the doctors, to all the physios that I work with. We are getting better and better, and Honda is working hard. Nothing has been gained now, but they are working really hard for 2023. This podium means a lot, to keep the motivation, to show to them that this rider that can win six titles with Honda is there.”