Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) rode a remarkable comeback race within a comeback weekend at the Grand Prix of Americas today, his first Grand Prix since he crashed out of last month’s Indonesian GP.
Despite missing two races the six-times MotoGP king was the fastest rider on track for some of the race, proving he has lost none of his legendary speed. He would without doubt have fought for victory if he had not suffered a minor, temporary technical issue at the start, which had him accelerate away from the grid at a substantially reduced speed, so that all the riders who had lined up behind him rode past.
That put him in last position, with 23 of the world’s fastest riders in front of him. Marquez did not lose his head in such a stressful situation, instead keeping cool and moving forward at an astonishing rate, despite this very bumpy circuit, which makes it harder than ever for riders to control their hugely powerful MotoGP bikes.
Already by the end of the first lap he was into 18th place. By lap three he was in the top 15 points-scoring positions and four laps later he was inside the top ten. Of course, the closer to the front, the faster the riders, so his late progress through the pack wasn’t as rapid as earlier. He spent the final few laps fighting back and forth with reigning MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo for sixth, a contest he won by 0.143 seconds.
The race statistics highlight the incredible race he rode. At the end of the first lap he was 4.387 seconds behind the leader. At the finish he was just 6.617 seconds behind the winner, despite having to find a way past 18 riders, working his tyres incredibly hard in the process.
Marquez considered the Indonesian GP to be the worst of his career. He crashed four times during the weekend, largely due to a surprise change of rear-slick spec, including a nasty highside in morning warm-up, which ruled him out of the race and triggered another case of diplopia. That forced him to miss last weekend’s Argentine GP and he was only passed fit on Tuesday to race here.
He has been riding conservatively most of the weekend, doing short runs and not pushing ultra-hard to conserve his energy for the race.
This was only his second race aboard Honda’s all-new 2022 RC213V, while MotoGP’s restricted pre-season testing schedule limited all riders to only five days on their bikes before the first race in Qatar last month. Marquez is confident that he is beginning to find a good direction with the machine, which will help him attack corners more aggressively when the championship moves to Europe later this month.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had a very tough start to the weekend, with a badly upset stomach, which left him very physically drained throughout the rest of the weekend, therefore interfering with his set-up programme for the race at this super-complex circuit with its 20 corners and bumpy asphalt.
The 30-year-old Spaniard still felt weak yesterday, qualifying 12th, which put him one row behind his team-mate, who had qualified ninth. He started well, immediately moving inside the top ten, his team-mate coming past on lap seven of 20. But as the race went on his physical condition soon took its toll and he was incapable of riding to his usual level. At one point he considered withdrawing from the race, because he had so little power within himself, but he bravely continued to cross the finish line in 13th position.
Now Espargaro has 11 days in which to rest and recuperate, while also examining data with his team to extract more of the potential of the latest RC213V in time for the next race at Algarve International Circuit, Portugal, on April 24.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) finished less than a second behind his fellow RC213V rider in 14th. The 30-year-old from Chiba has been working hard to improve front-end feel, so that he can attack corners with more confidence.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) had another challenging weekend, trying to adapt himself to the 2022 RC213V. The 25-year-old former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion struggled to find decent speed throughout the three days. He qualified 23rd, far below his usual position, and tumbled out of the race during the early stages, trying to fight his way into the points-scoring positions. Marquez hopes that returning to Europe, where he is more familiar with the racetracks, will help him to start moving forward after a difficult start to 2022.
The MotoGP grid has now completed the season-opening run of flyaway races in Qatar, Indonesia, Argentina and the USA, so now it’s time for riders and teams to head back to Europe, where the next 12 races will take place. The paddock next leaves Europe for the Japanese GP at Twin Ring Motegi in September.