Since winning his first MotoGP crown as a rookie in 2013, Marc Marquez has gone into each following season as a firm title contender, if not the overwhelming favourite.
But a complicated recovery on his broken right arm means it’s still far from clear when Marquez will be back on any kind of motorcycle, let alone his Repsol Honda.
The Spaniard has undergone three operations since the original fracture, suffered in the closing stages of last July’s Jerez season-opener, and continues to require antibiotic treatment for an infection that prevented the bone from healing.
Marquez’s six-week post-surgery check was described as ‘satisfactory’ but little else is known.
Such scant information, combined with Marquez’s own reputation for playing down the extent of painful injuries, means Suzuki’s Alex Rins thinks ‘the reality’ of Marquez’s situation will only become clear on the eve of the new season.
Official testing is due to be held in Qatar next month, followed by a pair of night races at the same Losail circuit, Covid permitting.
“It’s very difficult because we don’t know his condition,” Rins said, when asked if he still sees Marquez as the man to beat.
“Everybody’s talking a lot, but I think until the last moment nobody will know the reality or the truth, because also in the past in the case of Marc he was always covering a lot the reality [of his injuries].
“So let’s see where he is. I hope he returns for the first race, of course, and that he is fighting. A lot will depend on his physical condition. I like to see him on track, he is very talented and you learn a lot from him,” added the #42, who snatched a memorable victory from Marquez at Silverstone 2019.
Like Marquez, Rins was also injured at the Jerez opener (dislocating and fracturing his right shoulder) but was able to make a swift comeback and eventually took Suzuki’s first win of the season at Aragon.
Third place at the same event for team-mate Joan Mir saw the youngster move to the top of the world championship standings, where he ultimately remained, sealing Suzuki’s first title in twenty years.
“Talking about rivals, it’s quite early, but I think the first one will be my team-mate Joan Mir because he got the title last year and for sure he will try to keep it,” continued Rins.
“It’s a motivation for me. Joan did a super job last year and the first rival is your team-mate so I will give my 100% to try to beat him.
“But already last year the rivalry [in MotoGP in general] was so high – a lot of different winners. And for sure the [competition] in the second of the back-to-back races was always more tight.”
With the well-rounded nature of the GSX-RR helping carry Mir and Rins to first and third in the riders’ standings, plus victory in the teams’ title, some believe the special Covid technical freeze could help ‘protect’ their advantage for 2021.
“In the end, we can always improve, Suzuki and the rest of the manufacturers,” said Rins. “But we are in a very high level and I’m happy for this because we worked really hard.
“Since I arrived in 2017, I worked every day at the maximum and I think the bike now is competent, is quite good. So let’s see where we are.
“For sure I would like to repeat the results from last year. The bikes will be very similar to the 2020 season because we have the frozen engines, just we will have one modification allowed on the fairings.”
Rins is currently at Portimao to train on a GSX-R1000 road bike.