This Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix marks what’s now Marc Marquez’s fourth attempt at a MotoGP comeback in the space of 17 months.
The man who’d never missed a MotoGP race in the first seven seasons of his premier-class career has now had to sit out 25 of the last 46 grands prix, mostly – but not entirely – due to his Jerez 2020 crash and the various botched recovery processes.
It’s been a lot of pain in a very compressed period, but Marquez has had to battle back from injuries before.
Ahead of his return to the grid- 13th on the grid, to be precise – at Aragon, here’s a rundown of every comeback race of his grand prix career so far.
QATAR MOTO2 2012
Injury: Marquez was on the brink of taking the Moto2 title as a rookie when a practice crash at Sepang left him with concussion and double vision and curtailed his season two races early, letting future Honda colleague Stefan Bradl snatch the crown.
The situation around his vision was serious enough that there were genuine doubts over his career during the following winter.
The comeback race: Those doubts were dispelled very rapidly. Marquez won the 2012 season-opener in a brilliant last-lap battle in which he fairly brusquely dispatched Tom Luthi then beat Andrea Iannone by 0.061s at the line.
What happened next: Marquez absolutely obliterated the field to take the title ahead of his eventual Honda MotoGP team-mate Pol Espargaro and Iannone, earning a Repsol Honda seat for 2013 that required MotoGP to change the rules – which at the time prevented rookies going straight into factory MotoGP seats.
QATAR MOTOGP 2014
Injury: Marquez broke his right leg just one month and three days before the first race of his defence of his first MotoGP title. He didn’t actually miss any races, but he did have to sit out three of Honda’s four weeks of pre-season testing.
The comeback race: Who needs pre-season testing? Marquez won from pole in Qatar, defeating Valentino Rossi in a tense last-lap battle.
What happened next: Qatar began a remarkable streak of 10 consecutive wins that didn’t just make a second straight title inevitable, it made it look like Marquez might be unstoppable for years to come. Which he very nearly was.
QATAR MOTOGP 2019
Injury: We’re stretching the definition of comeback race here very slightly as Marquez didn’t miss any races or tests with this one. But it was over winter 2018 that the exertions (and shunts) of Marquez’s MotoGP career began to really catch up with him, prompting shoulder surgery that heavily compromised his pre-season build-up.
The comeback race: Not quite a win, but very, very nearly. Marquez was defeated out of the last corner by Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati, losing by just 0.023s as 0.6s covered the top six. That loss had more to do with the Ducati’s key strengths over the Honda than any shoulder discomfort.
What happened next: Another ultimately dominant title, but by the end of 2019 Marquez was suffering with similar problems in his other shoulder and had another operation. That led to even more compromised preparation for the 2020 season, with nerve damage complicating the recovery process and leaving Marquez admitting he wasn’t really fit enough to race. The four-month COVID delay to the start of racing averted that problem.
PORTIMAO MOTOGP 2021
Injury: Marquez’s 2020 racing season was brutally short when it finally began, lasting just 21 laps before his arm-shattering Jerez crash. Attempting to race again the following weekend damaged the titanium plate inserted to fix that injury and slowed his recovery enormously, as did a subsequent infection.
The comeback race: Marquez didn’t just miss the rest of the 2020 season, he also sat out the first two races of 2021. His form through his career so far had been such that he was still seen as a title contender even joining late.
Portimao showed the reality of the situation: Marquez qualified within three tenths of a second of pole in sixth but immediately demonstrated his undimmed racecraft and determination by charging to third (via a brush with Joan Mir).
He didn’t have the stamina to stay there, though. Eventually dropping to ninth, attrition helped him to finish 13s off the lead in sixth.
What happened next: A mix of un-Marquez off-the-pace races, errors but also three wins – albeit two at habitual strongholds (the Sachsenring and Austin) and one inherited when Pecco Bagnaia threw it away (Misano).
A mix that showed Marquez hadn’t lost his speed or aggression, but also that something still wasn’t quite right.
And then concussion from a motocross training crash forced him out again two races from the end of the season.
QATAR MOTOGP 2022
Injury: Soon after the announcement of that concussion came the shock news that it had also prompted a recurrence of the double vision he’d grappled with way back in his Moto2 days. Marquez was passed fit in time for pre-season testing, though.
The comeback race: Marquez qualified on the front row, but finished a rather muted fifth. He failed to keep up with the lead pack on a day when team-mate Pol Espargaro reached the podium.
He’d made it very clear he wasn’t comfortable with a Honda that had been developed in different directions during his recent absences. But was there more to it than that?
What happened next: Another injury almost immediately.
AUSTIN MOTOGP 2022
Injury: Marquez had already had three heavy crashes during the Mandalika MotoGP weekend, two in qualifying alone, before the most savage crash of all in the race day warm-up.
A seriously big crash for @marcmarquez93 today
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) March 20, 2022
He wasn’t given permission to start the race, and then another return of his double vision meant he’d miss the next one in Argentina as well.
The comeback race: Marquez was allowed back into the field for Austin. But the fact he qualified only ninth at a track where he’d taken every pole from 2013 to 2019 showed things were not right.
You wouldn’t have known it on race day, though. An electrical glitch led to his Honda stuttering off the line and he fell to nearly last.
But he mounted an extraordinary and incisive comeback ride to take sixth, with the kind of pace that suggested he could’ve won.
What happened next: The quality of that ride was put in even sharper perspective the following month when Marquez admitted that the arm broken back in July 2020 was still not really at the right angle and yet another operation was needed. This time one that really would be make-or-break for his career.
At Aragon on Sunday, we’ll get the first major indication of how well it’s worked.