MotoGP Germany: Marquez credits Doohan for motivating comeback| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
Marc Marquez showcased bravery, confidence and determination as he rode his Repsol Honda to its first victory since returning from the near-career-ending injury of 2020.
With 10 victories at the Sachsenring already under his belt, the German Grand Prix was certainly the place to demonstrate his rehab progress, as the anti-clockwise circuit took the edge off his physical limitations. The ‘King of the Ring’ remaining unchallenged for the 11th year in a row as he crossed the line almost 1.6s clear of KTM’s Miguel Oliveira.
“I still I don’t realise what’s going on,” an emotional Marquez said from parc fermé.
“It’s true that [the recovery] was a hard time and is a really hard time in my career and this victory helps a lot to continue, but apart from that, when I crossed the line, I thought about all the people that helped me to be here today. From this situation is impossible to go out alone. You need the people, you need the team, you need the doctors, the physio, the manager, the family, the friends. Everybody together to help you, all of them. They were helping me a lot and they are helping me a lot to, to come back.
“It’s true that the next race we will come back in our ‘real’ situation but today it’s time to enjoy. Time to say thanks to all of them, especially I want to say thanks to Honda, because the respect they give to me during all this year was something that I appreciate a lot, from my team. This will be great, an important victory for me, but also for all the HRC family.
“I already said on Thursday, this will be the first weekend that I will ride with less physical limitation. There’s less right corners so less corners where I will lose time. On the left corners I feel, not 100% but is not any limitation to be fast.
“All these things help and today I did the perfect start. I did the perfect first lap and then when I see some drops, I say ‘Okay it’s my day’. From there I continue, I push, and I was riding same as before, when it was completely dry without any drops, and from that I open a gap. When I saw that Miguel was catching me, I say ‘Okay, maybe it will be difficult’, but I believe. I believe in me. Was hard to push, was hard to have the confidence because I was thinking, more than the hard situation, I was thinking more about the three crashes in a row of the last three races. Today was important to finish the race and we did it in a very good way.”
Marquez explained a trick he used to calm his nerves during the race and prevent the pressure of the ever-advancing Oliveira from disrupting his rhythm - he just pretended he was training with brother Alex. A method that obviously proved more than adequate.
“Today was difficult in one part of the race to keep my concentration, keep focus and don’t give up. In some parts of the race, I was just riding too stiff, because I didn’t want to crash, or make any mistakes but then I say ‘Okay, forget about all these things’. I just tried to come back to old memories in this racetrack and I was riding in a good way. I changed the name Oliveira to my brother’s name, like when we are training at home. Normally we train in that mode, the fastest guy go behind, the slower rider in front, and sometimes, in some situations, he’s faster than me. So I just changed his name on my mind to my brother and I say ‘Okay, if he catches me is not a problem’ but of course I was pushing and I never give up!
Returning to the story of his comeback and his continuing recovery, Marquez credits a somewhat unlikely source of his motivation not to give up - five-time 500cc World Champion, Mick Doohan.
“When I was injured, always I felt like I will come back, and I will come back strong. But since the first time I ride the MotoGP bike in Portimao, I say ‘okay, I’m far, very far from my level’, and at that point, it was very hard,” the Spaniard explained.
“Next races were even harder. It’s difficult so I just tried to forget everything, just concentrate on my personal and professional side - when I say forget everything, the extra comments, comments from off site. I concentrate with my team, just listen to the people that want to help me. I tried to find something, or some comments that helps me a lot. That was a phone call with Mick Doohan!” he revealed
“I met him in Mugello, and I know that he had a similar situation in 92/93 and then I was 30 minutes in a phone call with him. I was listening. He was speaking, everything. He was explaining his situation, but it was like he was explaining my situation. Was exactly the same problems like: ‘you won’t understand the bike’, ‘you’re not riding like you want’, ‘stupid mistakes’, ‘stupid crash’, ‘some races you will be fast, ‘some practice you will be slow and you don’t know why’ and all the problems that I have this year, are what he had in the past. So this conversation with Mick Doohan helped me a lot to keep pushing.
“The feeling this weekend was completely different, was really hard from the mental side, because we are coming from three crashes in a row. The easiest thing today would be just to roll off a little bit and finish on the podium but this is not my mentality. Of course if today I crash again leading the race all the people will push me a lot, but I don’t care. I just follow my way, follow my instinct. Tuesday I had a phone call from Alberto [Puig] and he is really straight, and he say, ‘You know what we have this weekend, and you know what you can do’, I say ‘okay, is not necessary to speak more’. Then we have the rational side, that is Emilio Alzamora [Marquez’ manager] that say ‘just take care, top-five is okay’ but then just I follow my instinct. My instinct today, when I did the perfect start, I feel a few drops, Miguel was pushing but I was able to manage in a good way the distance, I say ‘Okay, today is the day!’
“It’s true that in this racetrack is a combination of two things: I ride with less physical limitation, and the weak point of our bike is less. We saw during the weekend, all Hondas were better. In the race, all Hondas struggled because it’s quite difficult to manage - the others just think to manage the rear tyre, we need to manage the front tyre too. The first part of the race I was riding slow, just to save the front tyre, not to save the rear.
“Okay the victory is important but we find extra motivation during all the weekend, we feel competitive, the only weak point for us was with a new tyre on the single lap. I wasn’t able to find a way because the bike becomes more aggressive, and more physical and I was struggling more, so let’s see, let’s see in the future if we can continue in that progression.”
The Honda man is less confident of his prospects next time out at Assen, however. With Marquez expecting a return to the more recent run of form across the weekends, at the demanding clockwise layout.
“You will see in Assen, we will struggle again to be in Q2. We will be in more or less the same situation like maybe Mugello or Montmeló, but we need time. We will continue, the motivation is there. The Monday test at Montmeló was very important for me, Was the first time that I was able to ride like I want. Without pressure, like it was my preseason test. It was only one day but I did many laps and this was a very helpful to understand the way to ride.
“The pain, the feeling, is there, it’s always same. It’s true that in this race I struggle much more than in Jerez. The other races I cannot say because I don’t finish!” he joked.
“I just did 10 laps, the maximum laps I did in a row. So next week I will struggle more because Assen is more demanding about physical condition, for a physical situation, is not a normal arm but it needs time.
“The summer break will help and I hope to do a step on my physical condition during that month and a half, but to be ready, or to be the same Marc as 2019? I will not be there. Is true that step-by-step I expect to be closer to the top guys but in Austria will not be ready to fight for the victory. I mean I’ve never won there, so I will not win this year I think!” he concluded.