Márquez heads to his last-chance saloon in America’s Midwest


Six-time MotoGP king Marc Marquez will undergo further surgery to his right arm in the USA, which could be his last chance to keep racing

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Márquez with crew chief Santi Hernandez on the Mugello grid


It’s been obvious season that all is not right with Marc Márquez. He has cruised through much of each race weekend, nothing like the spectacular Márquez of old, saving what little strength he has in his troublesome right arm and shoulder for when it matters: one fast lap in FP3, aiming for the Q2 qualifier, one fast lap in qualifying to get close to the front of the grid and then as many fast laps as he could manage in the race.

That is no way for a six-time MotoGP world champion and arguably the greatest motorcycle racer of all time to carry on.

Márquez has known this for months, so he’s been working with his specialists in Madrid, Spain, and more recently with Dr Joaquin Sanchez Sotelo, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in shoulder, arm and elbow conditions at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Right now he is flying to Minnesota, where this week he will undergo a fourth major operation on the right humerus (upper arm) bone he fractured when he crashed out of the Spanish GP in July 2020.

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Márquez had a brief duel with Mugello winner Pecco Bagnaia. Team-mate Pol Espargaro follows


He only got final confirmation of the surgery on Friday, when he was already at Mugello, practising for Sunday’s Italian GP.

“If I’d received the news on Wednesday or Thursday I wouldn’t have raced here,” he said. “But I received the news on Friday, so I was already here. Honda allowed me to choose what’s the best for me and I decided to continue the weekend.”

Márquez is fully aware that if this latest operation doesn’t fix his arm problems he may have to retire from racing. Humerus fractures have already ended the careers of many top bike racers, including four-times World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty, who knew he was done soon after he broke his left humerus in 2000.

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Fogarty underwent surgery on the arm and later tried to ride again during a test at Mugello.

“I could not find the words to describe how bad it was when I came in after a few laps,” said Fogarty. “I was one per cent of the guy I was seven months ago. I couldn’t even get down behind the bubble, change direction or hang off the bike in the corners.”

Márquez has been in a similar situation since returning to racing in April 2021, since when he’s managed to win three races.

“Riding like I am at the moment I cannot continue,” he added on Sunday. “If the operation is a good success, then we will see how I can ride a bike. This will be the last chance to improve my physical condition.”

“So, having the operation is the correct decision for my future. It’s not like I’ll have the operation and I’ll win again. No. The target of the operation is try to enjoy riding and racing again and have a normal athlete’s life: training and forgetting the painkillers and all these things. This is the target of the operation.”

It’s been almost two years since Márquez broke his right arm at Jerez’s Turn 3, when he was high-sided from his Repsol Honda RC213V and the front wheel hit him in the gravel trap.


Márquez can still ride well in left-handers but not in rights


Two operations followed, the first to insert a plate and pins, the second to replace those with a new plate and pins and the third to insert a bone graft from his pelvis, because an infection had caused a malunion at the fracture site.

Despite all this work Márquez’s arm still isn’t right, so he can’t sit on his motorcycle in his usual way, so he cannot ride with his usual spectacular style and he doesn’t have the strength to use his arm to save front-end slides in right-handers, which was one of his signature skills.

Inevitably the 29-year-old Spaniard is worried about the operation – because surgeries don’t always have the desired outcome – but Dr Sotelo told him there is no alternative if he wants to keep racing.

“Always you are worried, because a fourth operation on the same arm isn’t easy,” he said. “But when they called me on Friday, gave me the results [of their 3D bone scans, MR imaging and so on] and told me all the information, I breathed.

“Because there was the possibility to get the results and they’d say ‘OK, the rotation [of the bone] is not so big, so it’s up to you…’ Then, woah, that’s a big decision! But they called me and said straight away, ‘Come next week, the rotation is too big. We don’t know how you are doing what you are doing! And you must stop now’. So it was an easy decision for me and so Friday was one of the best days of the year for me – bad news for the operation – but very good news for myself.”

Of course, the way back to MotoGP from this latest surgery won’t be easy and no-one yet knows how long Márquez will take to regain the strength he needs to ride a MotoGP bike at full speed. The end of this season, the start of next season? Not even the surgeons can be sure.

“My first question to the doctors was, ‘Do you believe in the operation?’. They said, ‘Yes, we fully believe’. My second question was, ‘When can I come back?’. And they said, ‘If you go into this with that mentality, stay at home, don’t come here’.

“We still need to plan the rehabilitation and everything, but I will do this in Spain, in Madrid, while following the consolidation of the bone. Samuel Antuña [his Spanish specialist] and Dr Sotelo in America have a very good contact.”

Next year will be the last season of the four-year contract that Márquez signed with HRC during 2019, when he enjoyed arguably the best premier-class campaign of all time, winning 12 races and never finishing outside the top two. HRC has been behind him all the way, not surprising considering he is Honda’s most successful premier-class rider of all time, with 59 wins, five more than five-times 500cc champion Mick Doohan.

“I had arm pump, a lot of pain and a lack of power – it was important not to do crazy things” Marc Márquez

“I have really good confidence and a straight contact to [Yoshishige] Nomura san [now head of two wheels for Honda],
[HRC president Shinya] Wakabayashi also, plus [HRC director Tetsuhiro] Kuwata and my team manager [Alberto] Puig. When I have these critical situations I always inform them.

“As I said in 2020 and 2021 I feel a very big respect from Honda to myself. I said to them, ‘If you want I can continue until the end, riding like this, finishing fifth to tenth and maybe on the podium in some races. But they said, ‘No, you are more important, your life is more important, so take care about yourself and we will wait.”

Sunday’s race – Márquez’s last for what could be a long time – wasn’t easy. He struggled home tenth, between Miguel Oliveira and rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio.

“It was a difficult race,” said Márquez. “I enjoyed the first six or seven laps but then I had one warning and I gave up, because I already had arm pump, a lot of pain and a lack of power. Today it was important not to do crazy things. And before the race it was the first time that Alberto said, ‘Take care’!”

During the slowdown lap many rivals slowed to shake hands with Márquez before he quits the paddock for another long stretch. “It was emotional and it was good,” he said.