Marquez in search of old MotoGP magic at the American Grand Prix
Marc Marquez would love to find some of his old magic in America. He is on the right track to do so.
The Repsol Honda rider and six-time MotoGP champion has dominated the Grand Prix of the Americas in recent years, with six wins in seven tests at the Texas track. But an injury wiped out the Spaniard’s 2020 season and his current racing form in a long recovery places him ninth in the 2021 title race, far from French leader Fabio Quartararo.
“This season I am suffering more than enjoying it,” Marquez said this week. “I’m ready to enjoy. … If I enjoy it on the bike, the results will come.”
Marquez generally has a good time in Texas. And given Honda’s ability to deliver pure speed on a track that favors it, no one is ruling it out from a return to the podium.
Marquez recorded the fastest times in the wet morning practice on Friday, and again in the hot, dry afternoon, edging Ducati’s Jack Miller in both cases. He will be aiming for his eighth consecutive pole position in Austin on Saturday. The race is Sunday.
Marquez’s body wasn’t ready for an all-season title fight, but he showed he can muster enough pace and skill for a single race. He won the German Grand Prix and finished second ahead of Italian Francesco Bagnaia of Ducati two races ago in a wild finish at the Aragon Grand Prix.
“My intention is to be there fighting for it,” Marquez said on Sunday.
From 2013 to 2018, Marquez generally delivered a quick knockout blow to Texas, winning pole position and the race with ease every time. The 2013 win was career victory # 1 of 57.
The only incident took place in 2019 when a shocking accident opened the door to Alex Rins’ first career victory. Marquez was alone in front when a braking error at the end of the track caused him to fall.
The crash was a hard bump in an otherwise dominant sixth championship. The real problems came when he crashed in the first race of 2020, breaking a bone in his upper right arm that required a titanium plate insert. It was a serious and delicate injury that still affects his ability to balance a heavy bike through corners.
A hasty and admittedly stupid attempt at a quick comeback the following week was quickly scrapped. More surgery and an infection forced him to miss the rest of the 2020 season as Spaniard Joan Mir raced for the title.
Marquez admitted that there had been times when he feared his arm would never be normal again, and that he fought to regain the confidence that he could run to win. He has crashed several times this season and only finished on the podium twice.
“These two years, I’ve learned to take care of your body,” Marquez said. “If you take care of your body, you have a lot of errands.”
MotoGP did not race in Austin in 2020 because the stop was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Typically a spring event, this 2021 release has been pushed back late in the calendar and is only the third race in the series outside of Europe since the pandemic sparked a wave of cancellations.
Races in Argentina, Finland, Japan, Thailand, Australia and Malaysia have been phased out this year. The Texas run comes just as Austin, which has seen a spate of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the summer and fall, has stepped down a notch from its most severe levels of warnings and health protocols.
Quartararo will start Sunday with 48 points ahead of Bagnaia, winner of the last two races. After Austin, there will be three races left in the season. Quartararo was third in Friday’s practice, and Bagnaia sixth.
Quartararo noted that he will look to protect his lead without taking big risks with the title so close.
“Of course I’m in a tight spot, I won’t go over my limit,” he said.
Aprilia rider Maverick Vinales, who finished second in Austin in 2018, won’t be racing this week. He is absent after the death of his cousin, Dean Berta Vinales, during a race last week in Spain.