It’s a nightmare scenario for Honda but, after last week’s Sepang MotoGP tests there’s a helluva dark cloud over Marc Marquez’ 2020 season.
The eight time World Champion’s right shoulder, originally damaged in 2018 leaving it prone to dislocating (even in Marquez’ sleep) is still causing the Honda man much grief. The operation happened on November 27 with the shoulder then meant to be getting stronger and repairing in plenty of time for this season which kicks off a week into March – but it’s emerged that during that operation at the end of last year surgeons discovered nerve damage inside the joint which was much more extensive than first thought. Now a discussion is being had at Honda about whether ANOTHER operation is needed to try and save crucial strength in Champ’s deltoid muscle.
If this turns out to be the case, Marquez will miss the first two rounds of the season – his 2019 season tally of 27 falls catching up with the injury and making it worse by season end. How bad is the shoulder at the moment? Well, Marquez finished the final day of the Sepang test 12th fastest overall with a best time that was 0.423s slower than quickest rider Fabio Quartararo in the Petronas Yamaha.
“Three weeks ago, I couldn’t even think of taking the Sepang test,” Marquez told reporters in Sepang with other pitlane reports claiming that he also told privately told his team that: “Three weeks ago, I couldn’t even hold a water glass with my right hand.”
Information from inside the team has Marquez’ right deltoid muscle operating at 60% of what it should. Further medical examinations are now planned at the Clinica Dexeus in Barcelona where a decision will be made on whether another operation will go ahead. If another operation were to happen then Marquez would surely miss not only the Feb 22-24 Qatar test but also the first round of GP action at Doha on March 8, and possibly the second at Buriram on March 22 too.
What makes that even harder to stomach for Honda is that Marquez could have had the original, first repair surgery a full four weeks earlier by effectively opting out of the last couple of rounds of the 2019 championship once he’d won the title. With the title already won, the newly-crowned Champ could have headed straight for hospital, leaving the series early to concentrate on fixing the shoulder early and getting the most amount of recovery time under his belt.
To add to the ongoing injury headache, on November 3 things were made even worse when the shoulder was agitated again during a crash in training (bear in mind that Marc’s shoulder was so bad that when his brother Alex hugged him immediately after the title-winning MotoGP race, the force of the brotherly love dislocated the shoulder again).
Should he have pulled out of the 2019 campaign once the title was won? Both Nakagami and Oliveira took that option with the riders having their shoulder surgeries before the season finale in order to give themselves more recuperation time and be in a better position for the 2020 season.
Add to the choice not to pull out of the end of season races the fact that Honda also had Marquez take part in two tests of the 2020 prototype bike. That extra track work combined with the end of the season proper adds up to a full month of what would have been crucial recuperation time lost.
If Marc Marquez does need vital nerve surgery on his very poorly right shoulder, and indeed does end up missing the start of the season, it could come down to a bad series of calls by the MotoGP team’s big bosses – and could give rivals the essential early lead in the series points that might just be too much for Marquez to claw back.