MotoGP was not the only motorsport to show resilience and adaptability in 2020, but it was among the leaders. We can confidently hope there remains sufficient buoyancy to keep the boat afloat through the aftermath of the tempest, for there is unfinished business, and the prospect of a resumption of the close racing and championship of last year.
In spite of the reduced number of races, 2020 equalled a record nine different race winners, the title was in the balance until the penultimate race. Can the coming season be as close? Probably. The answer depends on two things. The timing of the return of Marc Marquez, and his race fitness.
There’s no doubt the Repsol Honda rider’s absence after a race-one crash enlivened the 2020 prospects of every other rider, and contributed to a feast of super-close racing. The doubts concerned the length of his absence, fuelled by an absence of clear information from rider, team and sponsor with a series of mumbled postponements. It was only after the final race that the extent of his medical problems was revealed, when he went for a third surgery (an eight-hour marathon with a third titanium plate and a bone graft) to try to get his snapped right humerus to unite.
I have personal experience of the notorious non-union humerus fracture, and just how long it can take to heal and regain full strength. More than one year and also three operations in my case. One might have expected the level of medical intervention available to multi-millionaire Marc might have yielded better results, but not so far.
The first race, scheduled for Qatar on 28th March, is four months after his third surgery. We just don’t know if he will be close to full strength by then. As well as the physical side, he will have missed a full season. Even at his level it is possible to become race-rusty.
He will face a fully refreshed gang of younger riders. At 28 for the first race, Marc is hardly ancient. Rossi, after all, soldiers on, turning 42 before starting out in his new satellite-team role. But only five other riders are older than Honda’s prospective returnee, and none of them by much.