Portimao: Six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez made a remarkable comeback Friday in his first competitive ride since crashing nine months ago when he was third fastest in the opening free practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix.
The Spaniard fared marginally less well in the second session but still produced the sixth fastest time overall to round off an exciting return, 271 days after his crash at the Spanish Grand Prix.
In the second session, Honda rider Marquez finished 0.473secs behind the Italian Francesco Bagnaia who set the fastest time of the day on his Ducati.
"Difficult to find a single word to describe the first training session, but I felt a lot of HAPPINESS!!" Marquez tweeted after the first session.
The 28-year-old broke his right arm when he crashed in Jerez in July 2020 in the opening race of last season.
He missed the rest of the campaign and opted not to ride in this season's back-to-back openers in Qatar having undergone three surgeries.
On Friday, at Portimao, the Spaniard was unperturbed by complicated conditions on the track which had numerous damp patches.
He steadily improved through the first session to post a time of 1min 42.378ec.
"A moment he has waited a long time for, marcmarquez93 is back on track," tweeted his Honda team which adopted the hashtag #TheReturn while MotoGP adopted #MarcReturns.
He was 0.251 behind compatriot Maverick Vinales who set the fastest time in the first session on his Yamaha.
So far this season, Honda have struggled with Yamaha's Vinales and Fabio Quartararo winning the opening rounds in Qatar.
Pol Espargaro and Stefan Brandl, who has stepped in for Marquez, were eighth and 11th and then 13th and 14th respectively for the Honda factory team in the Gulf.
"I am nervous," admitted Marquez on Thursday. "I have butterflies in my stomach."
Joan Mir, who man who stepped into Marquez's shoes last year to win the world title for Suzuki, clocked the third fastest time in spite of not having his chief engineer after he tested positive for Covid-19.
There are two more practice sessions on Saturday (0855/1230 GMT) before qualifying begins at 1310 GMT.