Nobody expected we’d be entering the fourth race of this young MotoGP campaign with three different winners — two of them first-timers — and nine different podium sitters. Personally, I also didn’t expect to be sitting 15 feet away from Marc Márquez at Thursday afternoon’s interview session ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, considering his latest spill.
It’s such a relief to see the six-time premier class champ preparing for action tomorrow, even if he’s eyeing a goal that’s quite different from the one he set his sights on the last time he was in Texas. An objective that doesn’t involve winning, he’s comfortable to admit.
“Of course I arrive here not in the best way,” the Repsol Honda rider told the media during the pre-event conference. “We will try to do a great FP1 and from that point start our weekend.”
Márquez said he doesn’t remember much from his dramatic highside during Sunday warm-up in Indonesia that caused a concussion and triggered another bout of double vision — an ailment he’s experienced a couple of times, going back to the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix when he was still riding in Moto2. But Márquez says he’s seeing well again — well enough to get back on the bike and try and put the pieces back together, though probably not well enough to repeat last year’s victory at COTA. He was lucky to have missed only one race.
When MotoGP’s Matt Birt asked Márquez if he thought it was “possible to come back and win here this weekend,” the rider let out a big sigh and a long “ehhh.” Even if Márquez said nothing more, it’d be pretty obvious where his expectations for the next three days lie.
“It’s possible, of course it’s possible. But it’s not the way to approach the weekend,” Márquez responded. “We are coming from the Indonesian GP where I struggled a lot, where I crashed too many times and when I had that very big highside. I just started to train again in a normal way a few days ago. It’s not the approach of the weekend — “win the race” — it’s just try to build again the confidence.”
While Márquez said he’s physically feeling better than he did in Round 1 in Qatar — his first weekend back in MotoGP after an enduro training accident took him out of commission last October — he made no attempt to sugarcoat his headspace, or that he was lacking motivation last weekend while the rest of the MotoGP circus rolled on to Argentina.
“It’s true that in the way of confidence, I feel much worse [than in Qatar],” Márquez said. “This is something that is obvious after a not-so-good weekend, after another injury — especially when it affected again the vision. It’s something that makes me scared. But apart of that, the championship is not as important. It’s there, but it’s not the main target now.”
To be honest, the championship may still be there if and when Márquez is feeling closer to 100 percent, considering the parity of the field. Márquez actually hadn’t yet been finally cleared by MotoGP doctors to race at the time of the presser, though he was obviously confident he would be. He’s since been given the go-ahead.
“I have the doctor check at 1:30, but of course if I’m here, the vision… It’s just, you see or you don’t see.”
He also doesn’t seem outwardly concerned that his diplopia — the aforementioned double vision he’s experiencing — will become more severe with successive crashes. And he’s unfortunately had quite a few big ones over the last three seasons.
“I asked my doctor … what [would] happen if I stopped [racing] one year completely? He said that in the end the hit or the impact was huge and I would have the same risk this weekend, and I would have the same risk in one year or two years. In the end it’s a nerve that, when I had the impact it was just moving a bit and then created that, and it’s one of my weak points.
“If I’m here, it’s for racing. I cannot think that I cannot crash because- I know that it’s a risk, but it’s my passion and I’m here for racing.”