Márquez at Americas MotoGP: 'The target was not to crash because I’m still scared about my head'

MotoGP

Marc Márquez's fightback from last to sixth at COTA proves the six-time MotoGP champion still has the speed and determination, despite everything

Marc Marquez in 2022 MotoGP American GP

Márquez was back to full-attack mode on Sunday, even though his main goal was to rebuild confidence

Honda

Two numbers sum up the enormity of Marc Márquez’s comeback ride at COTA on Sunday. At the end of the first lap, after an electronics glitch put him last going into Turn 1, he was 4.387 seconds behind the leader. At the chequered flag he was 6.617 seconds behind the winner, despite passing and sometimes repassing 18 riders during the 20 laps.

True, COTA is his favourite racetrack, which is one reason he wanted to return there, because he knew it would be a good place to rebuild his confidence after last month’s Indonesian GP, which he described as the worst of his career: four crashes, including the huge highside that triggered the double vision that has plagued him recently.

The 29-year-old’s indomitable spirit makes some people concerned for his wellbeing. But this is who he is and this is what he wants to do. Like he said after pre-season testing – “I want more motorbike” – because motorcycles and racing are his life.

Márquez has made so many comebacks over the last few years that every time he’s forced to go home to lick his wounds many wonder if he will be able to pull himself together and return to risk everything in pursuit of his goals: more GP wins and more world titles.

“Coming from one of my worst weekends, I’m trying to get some confidence back”

Of course there were moments last winter when it all seemed like it might be over and there were moments when he wondered if he should take a year off to ensure the diplopia doesn’t return.

“I asked my doctor what will happen if I stop for one year and he said the impact was huge [in Indonesia] and I will have the same risk this weekend, the same in one year, or in three years,” Márquez said on Friday. “It’s a nerve that moved a bit when I had the impact. Now it’s one of my weak points. I cannot think that I cannot crash. I know it’s a risk, but it’s my passion and I’m here to race, not to think about the injury.”

Friday went pretty well but on Saturday he said something he’s never said before, at least not in public. During his first qualifying run he was on a fast lap – pushing the limits to the max – when he rolled out of it. Why?

“I didn’t believe in myself,” he said after qualifying. “Coming from one of my worst weekends, my biggest highside and all these things, it’s normal to feel some doubts in myself but I’m trying to get some confidence back. I cannot approach the weekend in attack mode.

“So far I’ve done a strange weekend, because it’s the only way for me to survive all weekend. On Friday I only pushed on single laps, the same in FP2. FP4 was the first time I rode a normal practice, pushing a bit, try to understand my pace. Then when we fitted new tyres in qualifying I didn’t feel so good, so I didn’t push like I want.”

Marc Marquez battles with Fabio Quartararo in 2022 MotoGP Amercian GP

Márquez had a great battle with reigning champion Fabio Quartararo

Honda

The 2022 COTA MotoGP race was epic in many ways: the Ducati squadron up front, Álex Rins dancing his way between the Desmosedici on the Suzuki and Márquez charging through the pack.

Of course, it all started with a nightmare for the seven-times COTA winner.

“When I arrived at the start I already saw an alarm [on the dash],” he added. “The bike was crazy and I thought something big was wrong. It was like the pit limiter, so I checked in case I had put on the pit limiter but I hadn’t. The alarm stayed all the race but luckily for us when I arrived at the first corner and the holeshot device disengaged the bike was more or less good, but not perfect.

“From there it became another race for me. I said I will give everything, I know that even if I ride 100% every lap it will be impossible to finish in a good place but I gave everything, then with five or six laps remaining my body said, ‘OK, that’s it’. Then I just tried to finish the race.

“We got a lot of confidence from this race, which was my target: try not to have any crashes because I’m still scared about my head, because the impact was only three weeks ago.

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“I rode in a good way and this was the most important thing. I feel satisfied, because just being here was already satisfaction.

“It seems like when you are in the worst moment everything happens to you! Now I just want to keep going and keep pushing. I want to say thanks to the team because they believe in me and they give me the confidence I need, which is important.

“The other important thing is that I was relaxed. Even in warm-up I did just five laps to understand the bike and even though I had some doubts in qualifying my confidence was high before the race.

“I came here to compete and when you ride the bike you don’t think about the risk. I controlled myself to not push too much, just pass the riders one by one, even if I made a big mistake in Turn 1 when I was lucky to be in middle between [Takaki] Nakagami and [Brad] Binder. This was a consequence of [Maverick] Viñales moving at the brake point, so I also needed to release the brake. But I was very calm all the race, trying to control myself.”

Marc Marquez with pit crew at 2022 MotoGP American GP

Márquez’s crew congratulate him as he returns to his garage after the race

Honda

His biggest moment came at COTA’s fastest corner, the downhill Turn 10 left – a massive tankslapper that seemed to go on forever.

“That’s one of my favourite corners! I had big moment, which was a consequence of one of our weak spots – when the bike starts shaking it never stops. With the last bike it stopped. It’s what you saw at Turn 10 – the bike started moving and continued until the kerb. This is something we need to investigate.”

Now Márquez’s job is to continue developing the all-new RC213V, which is giving its riders front-end issues.

“It looks like we need too much track to turn the bike,” he added. “We need too much track to use the rear grip and that’s not the Honda DNA. The Honda DNA was always a ‘V’ cornering style – pushing and turning in a short time and picking up.

“My overtakes were at the brake points because we have a bike that’s really good on the brakes, but to turn the bike and understand the front tyre is difficult. The bike is the complete opposite of what we had last year.

“Another important thing is that this is a circuit I know very well, so I already know exactly what the bike’s weak points are, so I can I say to Honda that they need to work there and there if they want to be competitive.

“Now we need to understand what will be our level at European tracks, which I don’t think is the level to win or fight for victory at every race.

“With MotoGP now you cannot predict a GP. You cannot go to a GP and say, this one I can win, this one I will finish top five, this one I will finish top ten. During the weekend you need to accept where you are and if you are tenth you finish tenth. But of course I will push and I will take risks. The target is try to be on the podium at every race but right now isn’t the time to fight for podiums.”

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