When Marc Marquez rode to victory at the Sachsenring in June, for his and Honda’s first win since the Jerez 2020 arm injuries, Kevin Schwantz thought the MotoGP season ‘could have had a big turn right there’.
Marquez may only have moved up to tenth in the world championship, but having triumphed on such a physically demanding track – albeit in Marquez’s much favoured anti-clockwise direction – Schwantz thought the Spaniard could be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.
Instead, Marquez has continued to struggle on the clockwise circuits that dominate the calendar, a best finish of fourth at Misano also being his only appearance in the ‘right-hand’ top six since 2019.
But the #93 has underlined his potential at ‘left-hand’ tracks by only narrowly losing out to Francesco Bagnaia at Aragon, before finally making a victory return at COTA.
“I actually watched the Sachsenring live, and I would have thought somebody coming back from a physical ailment that’s had him off the bike as long as he had been, then at maybe the most technically challenging track – tight, twisty, physical – he just goes and rides away from everybody. I thought the season could have had a big turn right there,” Schwantz told MotoGP.com
“But it doesn’t seem he has that confidence everywhere he goes and to see some guys racing him like Pecco at Aragon was good – it’s great to see different guys at the front every weekend.”
1993 world champion Schwantz was no stranger to racing while injured during his own ten-year grand prix career, spent entirely with Suzuki. The Texan explained it takes a lot of mental strength to ‘shove’ the resulting self-doubt to the back of your mind.
“The injury is always at the back of your head and something you are thinking about, ‘man if I get into this corner a little bit too deep and the front end starts to push, do I have that physical strength to be able to get the bike stood up? Do I have the ability to do what I used to do on the motorcycle before I was injured?'” he said.
“You’re always thinking about it, but as you race and you get more consistent and get closer to the front every weekend, you just try and shove that out the back of your head. Because you can’t let it stay there forever.
“If you let it, it’s going to end up getting the better of you and make for a long rest of the season or couple more years.”
Despite missing the opening two rounds of this season due to the infected arm injury, Marquez’s pair of race wins since returning matches the best 2021 tally for all but world championship leader Fabio Quartararo (five wins).
But it’s well below Marquez’s previous level of success.
Marquez took a stunning average of nearly 14 podiums and 8 race wins per year from 2013-2019, when he was crowned world champion for all but one of those seasons.
“It’s been a bit of a reality check,” said Schwantz. “I’m sure it’s tough for him, but if I know Marquez and I know the guys at Honda, there are not going to take it lying down.
“They are going to continue to work until the end of the season and try, put an even better bike underneath him next year and try and win again.”
Marquez starts the final three rounds of this year holding seventh in the world championship, which is seven places above the next best Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR).