German GP is critical MotoGP litmus test for Marquez and Honda - The Race
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German GP is critical MotoGP litmus test for Marquez and Honda

Jun 15 2021
By Simon Patterson

There’s no questioning that so far it’s been a difficult road back to full MotoGP fitness for eight-time world champion Marc Marquez.

He’s completely failed to find his old form, he’s crashed out more than ever, and his best finish so far is seventh.

But as the series heads to Germany this weekend, we’ll learn more than ever about Marquez’s real 2021 potential at the Sachsenring.

Marc Marquez Honda Portimao MotoGP 2019

Having missed the first two rounds of the season as he continued to recuperate from the horrific arm injuries he suffered at the opening round of the 2020 season at Jerez, the seal of approval from his doctors to return to action only came in time for the Portuguese Grand Prix in mid-April.

Things initially looked promising, with that seventh place coming immediately in Portugal and Marquez not struggling too much at one of the most physical circuits on the calendar.

A few weeks later, back at the scene of the crime at Jerez, ninth showed that there was still a way to go, but progress was solid as Marquez regained his bike fitness.

Since then, it’s been something of a disaster. Four crashes in three races at Le Mans, Mugello and his home round at Barcelona mean that he’s on one of the worst streaks of his career – and perhaps that he’s pushing the bike beyond his own physical capabilities.

Marquez was only able to do a limited amount of motorbike training (normally a key component of his repertoire) away from the MotoGP track, and it’s clear that he’s not quite there yet.

That’s been hampered by reports of ongoing issues not with his freshly-healed arm but with the shoulder joint above the breakpoint of his humerus, an area where he’s had issues in the past.

He and Honda denied all rumours of nerve damage suffered in the initial fall – damage which could have ended his career prematurely – and it seems now that the issues have more to do with the joint than the bone.

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Marquez had previously undergone surgery repeatedly on his shoulders to repair damage caused by multiple and frequent dislocations, and the lack of strength in his arm seems to be exacerbating the old issue and leaving him struggling.

The only thing that’s going to fix that is more time on the bike and more opportunity to regrow the muscles of his arm, which remains visibly smaller than his left one after almost a year of limited use. MotoGP’s five-week summer break, extended by the cancellation of Finland, can’t come soon enough for him.

Marc Marquez

But before the season resumes with a double-header at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, there’s an all-important litmus test for the Honda rider coming up at this weekend’s German Grand Prix.

Marquez is, quite simply, the undisputed master of the Sachsenring. His 13-season career in grand prix racing stretches back to 2008, where he finished ninth in the 125cc class there. The year after, in 2009, he came home outside the points in 16th.

Marc Marquez wins Sachsenring 125cc 2010

Since then, he has won every single race he’s entered at the Eastern German circuit. Once in the 125cc class in 2010, twice in Moto2 in 2011 and 2012, and then every single time since in MotoGP, he’s won.

He’s amassed an incredible nine wins from 11 starts, a record that pales compared to even his own at other tracks like Austin’s Circuit of the Americas – where he’s at least had the decency to fail to finish in the past.

It’s not just Marquez that goes well at Sachsenring, though, with his Honda RC213V being a particular fan of the track too.

Dani Pedrosa Honda Sachsenring MotoGP 2010

Even while Marquez was a mere 125cc rider, his soon-to-be team-mate Dani Pedrosa was dominating the tight and twisty track, racking up three wins in a row of his own before Marquez took over.

It’s the nature of the track that complements both bike and rider. One of the oddest circuits of the year, and often disparagingly described as a go-kart track, riders spend a lot of time at extreme lean angles, something Marquez excels at.

Marc Marquez Honda Sachsenring MotoGP 2019

There’s not much heavy braking (a weakness of the Honda), but lots of fast grunts out of corners where its acceleration is useful – and the overall combination has made an almost unbeatable force of nature.

However, it’s not just question marks about Marquez that we’ve been asking in 2021. It’s clear from the comments and results of Honda’s other riders that they’re completely lost with the new bike this year, struggling to find a competitive edge with it. A test after the last race at Barcelona might have found something, but that could be wishful thinking.

Marc Marquez Honda wins Sachsenring MotoGP 2019

So while the Sachsenring won’t be a make-or-break venue for either Marquez or Honda, both parties’ record there should mean that we’re going to get a measure of true form.

If Marquez is still well off the pace, there are serious problems. If none of the other Honda riders can be at the front, Japan should be concerned.

But good results don’t necessarily mean that everything is fixed, either – because Honda’s Sachsenring successes means the track’s nature could easily just temporarily mask the problems we all know are there.

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