Ecstasy and heartbreak: two words that can sum up most MotoGP™ races. At the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto, it was ecstasy for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the Frenchman claimed his maiden two premier class victories. For reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), it was heartbreak.
Sitting top of the tree with a maximum 50 points from 50 available, Quartararo has placed himself firmly in the driving seat for the 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship. Yamaha compatriot Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) is El Diablo’s closest challenger, 10 points adrift, while Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso is 24 points shy of Quartararo in third. Marc Marquez, after fracturing his humerus in his Spanish GP Turn 3 crash, sits on 0 after the opening two rounds of 2020.
But is the eight-time World Champion out of the title race already? No chance. His Spanish GP comeback after another miraculous front-end save was nothing short of ridiculous as he carved through the field from P16 to P3, before his crash ended his hopes of salvaging a podium. The result of the crash was a fractured humerus. Surgery on Tuesday in Barcelona followed, with his side of the Repsol Honda box packed up – there was no way he was going to ride at the Andalucia GP, right?
Wrong. Alongside fellow HRC rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Marquez displayed extreme bravery and determination to try and ride. Saturday saw every set of eyes firmly fixed on the 93 Repsol Honda as he rumbled out of the Jerez pitlane in FP3, a session he’d eventually finish just 1.2 off Viñales’ all-time lap record of 1:36.584. The signs were promising that Marquez would complete the weekend, but the injury took its toll in Q1. Listening to what his body was telling him – just like he had done when attempting to ride – the Spaniard withdrew.
Nevertheless, Marquez’ attempt to ride was the sign of a true Champion – and he’ll be back in Brno. With – at least – 11 races to go, 275 points remain up for grabs for the MotoGP™ riders, and the upcoming races are historically good ones for Marquez – there isn’t many that don’t suit him.
Brno, Austria, Misano, Barcelona, Le Mans, Aragon and Valencia. During the same races in 2019, Marquez picked up 66 more points than Quartararo did, and the only race he didn’t win from that list last season was at the Red Bull Ring, where he finished a close second. If the same occurs this year, that would acclaim Marquez as World Champion if Quartararo remains the man to beat in 2020.
Quartararo and the Yamaha are different animals this season though. 2020 has shaped into an unbelievable fight for the premier class crown, and with the throne empty in Jerez, Quartararo pounced. The reigning King of MotoGP™ will be back in the Czech Republic seeking his first points of the year, but no one knows what condition Marc Marquez will be in.
It’s not just Quartararo Marquez has to beat either, with Jerez demonstrating there are a pool of riders all with podium – and potentially more – pedigree this year. Viñales looks strong, with Dovizioso and Ducati now entering two tracks in the form of Brno and the Red Bull Ring that suit the GP20 a lot better than Jerez. It’s set to be Marquez’ toughest year yet, but that will only make the 27-year-old more resolute.
Can Marc Marquez successfully defend his crown? Absolutely. Will Marc Marquez successfully defend his crown? Only time will tell…