AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Marc Marquez is back in Texas after his last fight with injuries and eye problems, his confidence broken and expectations low for the Grand Prix of the Americas, a race he has dominated for almost one of each.
These are tough times for the six-time Spanish MotoGP champion as he faces rare uncertainty about his Repsol Honda and even a bit of fear of what could happen if he suffers another heavy crash.
Márquez runs this weekend after a scary shock in the warm-up laps for the Indonesian Grand Prix on March 20 left him with double vision that knocked him out in last Sunday’s race in Argentina.
“On the issue of confidence I feel much worse, that is noticeable after another injury, with vision. It’s something that scares me,” Marquez said this week. “(But) I can’t be afraid that I can’t crash. Racing is my passion.”
A podium finish on Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas would go a long way in boosting what has been a troubled season for Márquez, whose last championship came in 2019. His 2020 season was cut short by injuries from a crash in the first race, and 2021 was a struggle to regain his winning form.
He still won three times last season, including at Austin, only to crash in a training session. That fall interrupted an eye nerve and triggered a bout of double vision.
And that’s what happened again with the crash in Indonesia that sent Marquez to the hospital for a concussion. It was hours later on his flight back to Spain that the double vision problems started again.
I do not remember much. I remember more from the video and the images than what I felt” in the crash, Márquez said “I feel lucky for that crash” which was no worse.
Lucky but still baffled by recurring vision problems.
“It’s something that scares you, makes you feel very uncomfortable, even for a normal life,” Marquez said. “The first week was difficult. The second week was getting better every day.”
It has proven difficult to regain the confidence to run and take risks at high speed, even for a runner who is already among the best in the history of the sport at the age of 29.
“Third, fourth, fifth injury in three years. And tough injuries,” he said. “Two weeks ago, he wasn’t even motivated to come here. I was motivated to sit on the couch and not take care of anything. My brother (Honda LCR rider Alex Marquez) helped me a lot, he pushed me to train again.”
Accidents happen in MotoGP and often. A mid-race crash in 2019 is the only time Marquez hasn’t won at Austin.
Marquez spoke with his doctor about the risk of further vision problems when he inevitably falls off the motorcycle again. The problem first occurred in his Moto2 racing days after an accident in 2011.
“He said that in (Indonesia) the impact was huge. I would have the same risk this weekend, in a year or three years,” Marquez said, acknowledging that the injured ocular nerve “is one of my weak points.”
Marquez has won the Grand Prix of the Americas seven times since 2013. The Circuit of the Americas is a Formula One track where long straights and hairpin turns reward the sheer power of Honda engines. In any other year, he would be the heavy favorite to win again.
“The focus can’t be victory,” Marquez said. “Now I’m just trying to regain confidence.”
Championship leader Aleix Espargaró of Aprilia Racing said he is happy to see Márquez back on track. And he won’t rule Marquez out of chances for victory or the podium on Sunday.
“Marc is one of the best in history, especially strong here in the United States,” Espargaro said. “You still have to look at it. We are happy that he is back. What happened to him is extremely difficult. and have a strong mindset to get through that.”
Espargaro, 32, has been a regular in MotoGP since 2014 but didn’t take his first victory until last week in Argentina on his 200th career start.
“I feel more relaxed than ever in my career,” Espargaro said. “I dreamed of my first victory and I achieved it, and now I know that I can win.
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