Marc Marquez will make his racing return at Portimão.
The story of Marc Marquez’s injury is an interesting one, many people are already writing the man off saying he will never win another title before he has even ridden his Honda RC213V whilst others are expecting him to return and win every race following in the footsteps of Mick Doohan in the ’90s. Truthfully nobody knows what will happen, not even the man himself knows how he will do when he returns to a race track. Yes he has done tests in Catalunya and Portimão on the Honda RC213V-S which is a road-legal version of his race bike, and he will also have undoubtedly done more tests than what have been publicised, but until he swings his leg over the iconic Repsol liveried Honda RC213V in the FP1 session at the Algarve Race Track circuit, we will have no idea what he is capable of.
These last 9 months have undoubtedly been the toughest of the 8 times champions life, spending months and months unsure of when and if he will ever return to MotoGP and do his job of racing motorcycles. The man has been riding motorcycles for 24 years now ever since he asked for one for his 4th birthday, being gifted a Yamaha PW50 which was the start of a story of one of the most talented riders in the history of motorcycle racing. Every time Marquez felt he was making progress whilst away from the race track he would be met with another setback, another operation, another infection and another thing delaying his time away from the thing he adores and lives for, this will have played havoc with his mental health. Constant anxiety about racing and his future, there is no doubt he will have spent lots of time with therapists and people who can help to bring him through these times as he recovers from his injury.
It will be really interesting to see Marquez vs Quartararo.
Now I cannot speak for the man himself, but I can convey my thoughts to you about what I think we can expect from him and how he will come back and what his mentality will be like, there is no doubt Marquez will be involved in many dramatic interviews and documentaries produced by people such as Dorna, DAZN and more about how he spent these last 265 days which will truly give an accurate depiction of what happened and how he coped, but for now you just have to deal with me. On the Friday of the FP1 session it will be 265 days since he last partook in a MotoGP session, he will absolutely be anxious about how he will feel on track, how fast he will be and also about crashing as you would expect he would be, but he is also a multiple-time world champion who is a master of putting these thoughts to the back of his mind, biting down on his windscreen and putting 110% into absolutely everything he does on a race track.
These last few months of pain, anxiety and eagerness to return to racing and give his all on the track will have fuelled a fire within him like no other; he will be hungry, eager and desperate to go out and fight against the class of 2021 who were able to notch up an impressive 9 different race winners and 15 different podium finishers in 2020.
Marquez will be returning to a completely different MotoGP to the one he has previously known, many riders including Joan Mir and Miguel Oliveira all said that the reason MotoGP was so competitive in 2020 was because the entire field felt like they had a chance, they felt that finally they could now win races without Marc Marquez there and finally battle to be the champion. This was evident given the sheer amount of winners we saw. But the fact that these riders felt they had a chance without Marquez there will have changed the mentality for many including champion Joan Mir and DohaGP winner Fabio Quartararo who both now want to battle against Marc Marquez and beat him on track fair and square after winning races and the title without him last year.
2 riders, 23 World Titles. Marc Marquez and Giacomo Agostini.
Now, I am not saying their wins or Mir’s title aren’t as ‘good’ because Marquez wasn’t there because that’s not true, every single rider can go out and get injured and its not Quartararo’s or Mir’s fault Marquez was injured. The sport continued without Marquez and their wins were not in vain and are perfectly valid.
For many of these riders who gained confidence last year without Marquez, their mindset will likely fade with the return of Marquez and they will return to the mentality of not having a chance with him there, personally, I feel this is the wrong mentality to have, if you are on that race track you should be there full of confidence that you will be able to win every single time you ride your bike no matter who is there racing with you.
The problem for these riders is that Marquez will have agonised throughout last year watching these riders wishing he was there racing against them, desperate to be on track with them and give them a run for their money and that will absolutely be the mindset he is going to return with racing with. He is working on his fitness daily with cardiovascular exercises as well as muscle enlargement with Hypertrophy exercises. Marquez lost 4kg of muscle due to his injury but will be training to add this back on, the great thing about muscle is that it remembers, it remembers how strong it was and this enables people who have lost muscle to regain this very quickly, there is no doubt Marquez will have added back on these 4 kilos when he arrives in Portugal and will be fit enough to contend once again.
He is absolutely going to be careful and take it easy, he will be calculative about his riding and will try to avoid mistakes. But if you think he is going to be slow you are in for a surprise, for years and years he has ridden at the absolute limit, saving more crashes than you can think of on his elbows as he searches for the limit, then once he has found the limit of what his bike and the tyres can do he will ride exactly on that limit. Cal Crutchlow once said he tried to ride like Marc Marquez and nearly crashed every single corner. So if you think he isn’t going to try his hardest to ride like this then you are gravely mistaken.
I am not going to sit here and say ‘I think Marquez will win everything’ or ‘Marquez will not be the same rider’ because that wouldn’t be fair, it wouldn’t be fair on Marquez and it wouldn’t be fair on the other riders who are putting everything they have into racing and have done since they were a toddler, they are all there to battle and achieve one goal which is to be World Champion. Yes this may be more difficult with Marquez there amongst them but 25 points is 25 points and if a rider can win a race once before, what is the addition of one more rider going to do? It’s just another rider to overtake.
All in all I think it will be interesting to see how Marquez will get on, he will be coming back with an unbelievable amount of motivation but his rivals are going to be just as motivated to beat him, but to say he will or won’t do this or that before he has even tried to ride his bike isn’t the right way to approach the subject. I apologise if you read this expecting a solid answer but unless you have a crystal ball, you won’t get one.
Featured images – HRC