This Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix marks Marc Marquez’s fourth attempt at a MotoGP comeback in 17 months.
The man who had 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, mainly – but not entirely – due to his crash at Jerez 2020 and the various botched recovery processes .
It was a lot of pain in a very compressed time, but Marquez had previously fought back with injuries.
Ahead of his return to the grid – 13th on the grid to be exact – at Aragon, here’s a recap of every comeback race of his Grand Prix career to date.
QATAR MOTO2 2012
Injury: Marquez was on the verge of clinching the Moto2 title as a rookie when a training accident at Sepang left him with a concussion and double vision and his second season racing ended early, allowing future Honda colleague Stefan Bradl to claim the crown.
The situation surrounding his vision was serious enough that serious doubts about his career were raised the following winter.
The comeback race: These doubts were dispelled very quickly. Marquez won the 2012 season opener in a brilliant last lap fight, taking down Tom Lüthi quite roughly and then beating Andrea Iannone by 0.061s at the finish line.
What happened next: Marquez absolutely wiped out the field to take the title ahead of eventual Honda MotoGP teammates Pol Espargaro and Iannone, earning a Repsol Honda seat for 2013 that required MotoGP to change the rules – what back then prevented rookies from going straight into the factory MotoGP seats.
QATAR MOTOGP 2014
Injury: Marquez broke his right leg just a month and three days before the first race of his defense of his maiden MotoGP title. He hasn’t actually missed any races, but has had to sit out three of Honda’s four-week preseason tests.
The comeback race: Who Needs Preseason Tests? Marquez won from pole in Qatar, defeating Valentino Rossi in a tense final-lap battle.
What happened next: Qatar embarked on a remarkable streak of 10 straight wins that not only made a second consecutive title inevitable but also made it seem like Marquez would be unstoppable in the years to come. What he almost was.
QATAR MOTOGP 2019
Injury: We’re stretching the definition of comeback races very slightly here, as Marquez didn’t miss any races or tests with this race. But in the winter of 2018 the rigors (and shunts) of Marquez’s MotoGP career really started to catch up with him, leading to shoulder surgery that severely hampered his preparation for the season.
The comeback race: Not quite a win, but very, very close. Marquez was defeated by Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati in the final corner and lost by just 0.023s while 0.6s covered the top 6. That loss had more to do with the Ducati’s key strengths over the Honda than with shoulder discomfort.
What happened next: Another ultimately dominant title, but in late 2019 Marquez suffered from similar issues on his other shoulder and underwent surgery again. That led to even worse preparation for the 2020 season as nerve damage complicated the recovery process and Marquez admitted he wasn’t really fit enough to race. The four-month COVID delay before the start of the race averted this problem.
PORTIMAO MOTOGP 2021
Injury: Marquez’s 2020 racing season was brutally short when it finally got underway, lasting just 21 laps before his arm-shattering crash at Jerez. Attempting to race again the following weekend damaged the titanium plate used to repair that injury and greatly slowed his recovery, as did a subsequent infection.
The comeback race: Not only did Marquez miss the rest of the 2020 season, he also sat out the first two races of 2021. His form in his career so far has been such that he was still considered a title contender even after his late start.
Portimao showed the reality of the situation: Marquez qualified sixth from pole within three-tenths of a second, but immediately demonstrated his racing skills and determination by storming into third place (via a run-in with Joan Mir).
However, he did not have the stamina to stay there. Eventually dropping to ninth place, attrition helped him finish 13 seconds off the lead in sixth place.
What happened next: A mix of off-the-pace racing un-Marquez, mistakes but also three wins – albeit two on usual strongholds (Sachsenring and Austin) and one inherited when Pecco Bagnaia dumped him (Misano).
A mix that showed that Marquez hadn’t lost speed or aggression, but also that something wasn’t quite right.
And then a concussion after a crash in motocross practice forced him out again with two races to go.
QATAR MOTOGP 2022
Injury: Shortly after the announcement of this concussion came the shocking news that it had also resulted in a recurrence of the double vision he had grappled with way back in his Moto2 days. However, Marquez was made fit in time for pre-season testing.
The comeback race: Marquez qualified for the front row but was a more modest fifth. On a day when teammate Pol Espargaro made it to the podium, he couldn’t keep up with the leading group.
He had made it very clear that he was not happy with a Honda that had been developed in several directions during his recent absence. But was there more than that?
What happened next: Another injury almost immediately.
AUSTIN MOTOGP 2022
Injury: Marquez already had three serious crashes during the MotoGP weekend at Mandalika, two of them in qualifying alone, before the worst of all crashes occurred during race day warm-up.
A seriously big crash for @marcmarquez93 today
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) March 20, 2022
He was not given permission to start the race and then a return of his double vision meant he would miss the next one in Argentina too.
The comeback race: Marquez was allowed back into the field for Austin. But the fact that he only qualified ninth at a track where he had claimed every pole from 2013 to 2019 showed things were not right.
You wouldn’t have known it on race day though. An electrical failure caused his Honda to stutter off the line and he nearly dropped to last place.
But he put on an exceptional and incisive comeback drive to finish sixth, with the kind of pace that suggested he could have won.
What happened next: The quality of that ride became even clearer the following month when Marquez admitted that the arm that was broken in July 2020 was still not really at the right angle and required further surgery. This time one that would really be decisive for his career.
On Sunday in Aragon we will get the first big indication of how well it worked.