Marc Márquez out of Valencia GP and vital Jerez test due to double vision


Marc Márquez’s recent training crash damaged the same eye muscles he damaged in 2011, requiring eye surgery. Now the six-time MotoGP king faces another fightback from injury

Marc Marquez celebrates winning at the Sachsenring in 2021

Márquez and Honda celebrate his first victory since his arm injury, at Sachsenring in June


The absence of Marc Márquez from the last two races of 2021 and – much more importantly – the first pre-season test for 2022 is a real concern for MotoGP.

MotoGP isn’t the same when the championship’s greatest rider of the last decade – some would argue, of all time – isn’t on track to pile on the pressure and shake things up.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the situation was the same with Kevin Schwantz. Race weekends just didn’t have the same tension and sparkle when he was injured, because when he was around you never knew what was going to happen, there was always magic in the air. Márquez is the same.

Journalists are supposed to be disinterested observers and chroniclers but I have to declare an interest in warrior riders. When I first worked in the paddock the riders who excited me most were Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey, then Mick Doohan, then Valentino Rossi, Marco Simoncelli and Márquez.

We should enjoy riders who dominate and appreciate the talent

Warrior riders are always up for a fight and never admit defeat. They have a certain swagger, like watching Muhammad Ali walk into the ring.

Many people saw the Doohan era – five consecutive 500cc world titles in the 1990s – as boring, because the teak-tough Aussie won pretty much everything going. I didn’t see it like that at all. I want to watch the most talented riders in the world ride their motorcycles to the limit and beyond in pursuit of gold and glory.

If the best rider in the world is that much better than everyone else, so be it.

Doohan nailed it when a journalist (it may have been me, I can’t remember) asked him if he had any idea how 500 GPs might be made more exciting.

“What do you want me to do, slow down?” was his glowering response.

If a rider dominates, we should enjoy that domination and appreciate the talent and everything else that goes into making it happen. Don’t blame him for being too fast, blame the others for being too slow and then enjoy watching them work out how to get faster. As they always do.

Marc Marquez leans into a corner at Sachsenring

Márquez leads Aleix Espargaró, Johann Zarco and Jack Miller at Sachsenring


Márquez won the 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 MotoGP titles. That last title was the greatest since world championship racing began in 1949: 12 victories, six second places and one crash (not his fault) from 19 races. And this at a time when the entire grid rode motorcycles of similar performance.

There are few riders less predictable than Márquez, because you never know what he’s going to do next.

Of course, two riders have completed seasons without getting beaten once – John Surtees in 1959 and Giacomo Agostini in 1968 – but at that time Surtees and Agostini basically rode MotoGP bikes while the rest of the grid rode Moto2 bikes.

Márquez has crashed a lot during his career, but many of these falls were explorative skids rather than actual mistakes – locating the limit during practice by exceeding it, then logging that info for the race. After all, you don’t win eight world titles by crashing out of races.

His greatest skill, of course, which is entirely linked to these explorations, is the mastery of the front tyre.

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If you ride on road or track you’ll know that you can save a rear-tyre slide if you know roughly what you’re doing, but when you have a front-tyre slide you’re down. Márquez has front-end slides at every other corner, playing with all the grip the tyre has got and more. That’s why rivals struggle to keep up.

Just as some fans complained about Doohan’s dominance, others insisted that last year’s MotoGP championship was better without Márquez – after he broke an arm at the first race – because it was more unpredictable. I’d disagree – despite his metronomic 2019 season there are few riders less predictable than Márquez, because you never know what he’s going to do next.

Obviously, Joan Mir 100% deserved the 2020 championship, but how can any sport be improved by the absence of its greatest exponent?

Before last weekend’s Algarve GP Márquez suffered concussion in an enduro accident. The bang to his head also caused diplopia (medical speak for double vision), the same problem that kept him out of action for several months following a crash at Sepang in 2011, when he fell heavily due to marshals failing to flag a wet section of track.

Marc Marquez celebrates Misano win in 2021

Márquez celebrates his third win of 2021 at Misano last month


“The examination carried out on Marc Márquez today after the accident that occurred has confirmed that the rider has diplopia and has revealed a paralysis of the fourth right nerve with involvement of the right superior oblique muscle, said ophthalmologist Dr Bernat Sánchez Dalmau this morning. “A conservative treatment with periodic updates has been chosen to follow with the clinical evolution. This fourth right nerve is the one that was already injured in 2011.”

The 2011 accident damaged the same nerve, which prevented the same muscle controlling rotation of the eyeball. Márquez had double vision until he underwent successful corrective surgery in January 2012.

He revealed later that until his eyesight was fixed he was worried he might never be able to race competitively again. And yet he went on to win the 2012 Moto2 title and the following year the MotoGP crown in his rookie MotoGP season.

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Hopefully, months of rest, further surgery or wearing glasses will again restore his eyesight.

Assuming this latest damage can be fixed, the 28-year-old’s absence from the Algarve and Valencia GPs are of less importance to Márquez and Honda than his absence from next week’s Jerez tests. Rider and factory already knew the 2021 season was essentially a write-off for them – despite three race victories – so most of their focus in recent weeks and months has been getting the rider back to full strength from his arm injury and the hugely revamped 2022 RC213V up to speed.

Jerez will be particularly important because it’s the last chance for factories to evaluate their latest engines – following a two-year engine freeze – and choose their final specs for 2022, because the first test of 2022, at Sepang in early February, takes place only a month before the first race, in Qatar in early March.

Finally, should Márquez and other riders be told to stop riding dirt bikes? Really, that’s a bit like telling Bob Dylan to stop writing songs or Vincent van Gogh to stop painting pictures.

MotoGP riders live to ride and if they want to ride, who’s going to wrap them up in cotton wool? Motorcycle riders get hurt, we all know that, but we ride anyway.