Marc Marquez finished seventh in his return from injury to the MotoGP series in the Portuguese Grand Prix in a field of 21 riders – and he could not have been happier. This is only the fifth time in a 130-race MotoGP career that he has finished worse than sixth.
Marquez was set to defend his 2019 championship last July when he crashed twice in the season opener. He recovered from the first incident and was challenging for a podium finish when the second accident shattered his right arm. In fact, Marquez was set to defend the last four championships at this level. He has six MotoGP titles to his credit and a second-place finish in the points in seven seasons.
A successful surgery fueled speculation that he might still be able to compete last year in a season delayed and shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, but further evaluation necessitated a second surgery and the loss of the remaining races.
Finally, Marquez was able to race in the Portuguese Grand Prix. He admitted to being a little rusty and uncomfortable in the opening stages of the race, but when the checkers waved, he was riding comfortably.
“When I felt better was in the mid part of the race when I was alone,” Marquez said after the race. “I was riding. In the first part of the race I felt like when you’re playing in school with the big guys that you don’t know (and) where they are much better than you.
“That is what I felt at the first part of the race.”
For his seventh-place finish, Marquez earned nine points. He trails points’ leader Fabio Quartararo by 52 points and sits 14th in the standings. But that was not the most important takeaway from the race.
“Just to finish the race – doesn’t matter the position – but to finish on the lead lap, 15 seconds behind the lead rider was something impossible to dream,” Marquez said.
Marquez was actually 13 seconds behind the winner Quartararo – in a safe bubble. Aleix Espargaro was five seconds ahead of him and just under five seconds back lay his brother Alex Marquez.
“It was a mix of emotions this weekend,” Marquez said. “A lot of emotions this weekend.
“When I arrived in the box, I exploded. I’m a person who likes to keep everything inside, but I wasn’t able to control. I had something inside I needed to take care of. During this time I felt a lot of support from everyone, Honda, my family and friends.
“Of course I suffered. I didn’t enjoy (the race), but it was the most important step for my recovery.”
Marquez hinted that fans should not expect miracles.
While his arm injury has healed sufficiently to allow him to race, doctors do not want him practicing between rounds so that it can heal completely.
The next race will be held on Marquez’s native track at Circuito de Jerez in Andalusia, Spain. Marquez will be able to stay close to home with Round 5 being hosted in LeMans, France and Round 6 at the Mugello Circuit in Italy.
And then Marquez will return to Spain for MotoGP Round 7 at Catalunya in Barcelona in June, giving him something to work toward even in the majority of his practice comes in race conditions.
“Now it’s important to take a rest,” Marquez said. “I’m in a difficult period because I’m able to race, but at home I need to take a rest. I cannot train on another bike. This is what is from the doctors and these next two months will be like this. Just riding race by race, then home to take a rest. The body is okay, but I cannot extend too much.