The current MotoGP World Champion analyzes the performance of his brother Álex in the Repsol Honda Team and his own return to routine and training, as well as his desire to return to action and also the novel end of the season at the Portimao circuit.
Marc, we would like to know how you feel physically and mentally?
"About the physical side, now I am in a good moment. But of course, I am still far from my normal level. It’s true that last week, I started to do some running and cycling. From the cardio side, the legs and the left arm, my condition is quite good. But about the right arm, still I need to make some big steps but now we are starting to do more exercises. I am looking forward to starting to push a little bit more in the gym. But at the moment we must respect the timings and just be patient.
From the mental side it was hard in the beginning. Because you know, there was nothing to do at home, the days and even the hours were very, very long but now we have a plan a for each day. We do two sessions of physio and then we also train in the gym with my trainer, the left arm, the legs, along with some cardio. So now the mental side is feeling much better, the moment where I suffer the most is during the race weekend because you are watching the race, all the practice sessions from the TV and it is not easy. Aside from this, we can say that I’m happy now. I’m happy because I already feel that we have made some steps forward."
We saw you last week already training with protection, are you still using it?
"Yeah, we have had some different kinds of protections. In the beginning I had a lot of protection, from the hand to the top of the arm and it was like completely rigid. Then step by step we used this carbon protection that you saw on social media that was from the elbow to the shoulder. And now, in normal life I am not using anything expect for training, especially when I am cycling, still I am using that carbon protection because it fixes the bone and the arm in place a little bit better. Now I am starting to forget about the protections, and I hope that next week we are already able to remove the protection from all the things we do."
How are you feeling now you are training again?
"I have started cycling and running and I expected it to be much worse because for like four, five weeks I was completely just on the sofa watching TV. But I started running and immediately from the first day I felt good and I started to see improvements, with cycling too. The most difficult thing is the muscle on the right arm but even this is better than I expected. The muscle is still there, it’s working well. The most important thing is that all the movements are ok and now step by step with my physio Carlos, he is living with me in my house, we will start to work hard to improve, following the correct steps in the correct time."
Did you miss training?
"I missed training, especially the first two weeks but what I’m missing more is being on a motorbike. Now I’m in a situation where I hope to come back soon on a small bike or something like this but at the moment, we have to just respect the process, the timings from the doctors. Now I start to feel ready, but this is when it becomes a little dangerous because when you feel ready, you want more and more but I just have to try to understand what my body is saying."
Already from running last week, many fans said you were really fast!
"I was surprised because normally my running pace is 3:50 per kilometer and I did a 4/4:10 per kilometer so it was a good pace. The next day I was destroyed! My legs were completely empty but then during the week I ran three times, I went cycling one time and it looks like the base is there. So, from the physical side, I feel ready to come back but about the arm specifically, still not."
Last race in Misano, it was the first race where the Repsol Honda Team were closer to the front. What did you think about it?
"The Repsol Honda Team is, I think, in a difficult situation. Of course, I feel like I am important there and I feel that we can achieve many good results but when you have a rookie rider on the other side of the garage, and then I was out from the first race, then you can lose the direction a little bit. But now it looks like it’s normal, a rookie has a process and my teammate, that’s also my brother of course, has a good process. But the Tuesday test in Misano was very important because they found something there and then from that point Nakagami and my brother, Alex, did a big step. P6 and P7 overall in the final result, I think is a good result for them. I am looking forward to coming back as soon as possible to help the team but at the moment I am just helping from the outside."
Do you think he (Alex) already made this step?
"Alex is in the process, one important thing for rookie riders is when they have two races in a row in the same circuit. This helps a lot, the most difficult thing in MotoGP is arriving at a circuit with a MotoGP bike and trying to adjust everything. Alex will arrive in Montmelo at the Catalunya Circuit and he will start the process again. But let’s see if he did a step. To do a step is just to be racing from P8 to P12, this is the first step that he needed to do and then from there it is about trying to learn, see where you can improve and then make another step."
Do you think it’s harder for a rookie this season because the difference from first to 20th is one second?
"It’s difficult for a rookie, but also for everybody. The times are really close, I mean in one second there are 17 riders, 18 riders and this is something amazing because I think the level in MotoGP is really equal now and this is good for the riders because in the end, the final improvement comes from them. It’s a difficult season for everybody but especially for a rookie it’s difficult because you have many races in a row. It’s strange because when you race one time you go home then the body can understand how to improve, but now everything is happening really fast – too fast for a rookie rider. And we don’t have tests, they had a one-day test in Misano and normally during a season we have four or five days test that help a lot."
Being at home, have you become Alex’s advisor?
"I try to help Alex and on Thursday when they have the tyre allocation, he sends me the photo and I try to give some advice, maybe this tyre can be the option because last year and all these things. But then we have like a rule, he needs to work with his team, we have to be professional and he is working with his team. If he has a doubt about riding style or something like this, he calls me, but I never call him. He needs to call me because he is in the circuit working with his team and he has Alberto there, who also has a lot of experience, and Emilio. But of course, every day we have two, sometimes three phone calls."
“I know that we are in a good way, but I don’t know if I will be on the bike in one month, in two weeks or in two months. I don’t know this; this is something that my body will answer."
Honda sent a press release where they said you are two or three months away from the track. Which point are we at now?
"Three months is a lot. When I was with the doctors we tried to understand and to listen to different opinions, different doctors and they said around three months. In the beginning it’s a shock to a rider but now, which moment? Now I am in the moment where I start to feel the big steps with my body. So now every day, every week, I feel something different. The first three weeks were the same because I didn’t feel anything, and I didn’t feel any improvement. But now I start to feel some improvements, we start to work at the gym, I start to train. So, in which moment I don’t know, I know that I am closer to being on a bike, that is the most important. I know that we are in a good way, but I don’t know if I will be on the bike in one month, in two weeks or in two months. I don’t know this; this is something that my body will answer."
In the meantime, you are watching the races at home, it must be super strange for you?
"It’s the most difficult, to watch races at home is the most difficult thing because you are there watching the practice, watching the races, you would like to be there. Then when you see that it’s so equal, many different winners during a season and you see that they have only 84 points after so many races you become even more motivated to come back. But in the end the timing is the timing. It looks strange that after seven races I am only 84 points behind the leader, and I have zero! It’s a strange season and looks like we don’t have anybody who is making a big difference compared to the others."
What do you think about this season? Seven races to go, it’s still completely open!
"It’s strange, it’s strange because it looks like nobody wants to win! Nobody wants to be at the top, I mean is difficult to understand but if you are a rider you can understand it a little bit. One thing is to be a rider that if you win, it will be fantastic and if you win it will be something incredible but when you are the rider that needs to win then something changes and you have many more doubts because you don’t know if you should attack, if you should defend. You know when you are the rider that is coming from second place, third place, fourth place and you have something in front of you, you have nothing to lose, you just attack and then you ride with more confidence because you don’t have anything to lose but when you are at the top and you have to win, this is when the doubts start to be in your mind, in your body and it becomes more difficult."
Because not only two riders are in the fight, many factories and also satellite bikes, it’s complexly open this year.
"Yeah, I mean it’s good for MotoGP and I think for the show that now a satellite team has an official bike so that means that the bike can win many races. This is something good because then a satellite team can have a good goal for a season, a good goal for a race, they are fighting there. For sponsors, for all these things it is much better."
You mentioned in an interview with DAZN in Austria that your favourites would be Dovi and Quartararo – is that still the same?
"It’s difficult to say, but it’s true that in Austria I said Quartararo or Dovizioso but, honestly speaking, I expected more from them. Especially from Quartararo, I expect much more because he won the first two races with an incredible level and now, I don’t know what is going on. He struggles a lot, even in one of his strongest points: Qualifying practice. But then Dovizioso is consistent, he is there but he needs more speed if he wants to win the title and we see that Viñales is there, Mir is there, I mean we have eight, nine riders within 25 points so it will be interesting to see the end of the season. And yeah, we will try to experience the show from the inside!"
Home race in Barcelona this week, will you be at home biting your nails?
"Now MotoGP will race just one hour from my home. And yeah, it will be strange, but you know, it’s a strange situation. It’s the first time that I have this experience in my career, it’s true that in the career of an athlete in any sport, if you spend 15 years riding at the limit then one year, you have this possibility. We will try to come back as soon as possible; the motivation still is there."
From 2013 you have won six titles, now is a hard moment for Honda. Many people are using this bad luck to attack and say the bike isn’t easy and the strategy is wrong. What do you think?
"I have a lot of time now and I read many things but, in the end, if you take the last ten years, Honda has had a perfect strategy. Why? Because it is the team that won more titles, more team titles and more Constructor Championships. I think Honda is doing a great job during all these years. Every manufacturer is struggling for one year, but it’s like this sometimes. We are looking forward to improving the situation for next year because I feel part of Honda and I feel that it is part of my responsibility to be there to bring Honda to the top. And we will come back, but for me the strategy of Honda in the end, means you can suffer one year but you need to take the last ten years, and the last ten years Honda has achieved more than the other manufacturers."
Does a MotoGP bike need to be an easy bike like people say?
"I mean of course a MotoGP bike is a MotoGP bike. I mean every MotoGP bike has a different character and then the riders must adapt to the bike. Honda has this philosophy for many many years in the 500cc and MotoGP classes. For example, when I speak with Doohan, with Criville, the philosophy was the same. Honda have a good bike, but you need to be 100% fit, you need to push the bike a lot but then when you get the feeling with the bike, you can be really fast. Then when I read ‘no the bike is made only for Marquez style and blah blah’, it’s not like this. I mean we have three official bikes on track, last year it was me, Lorenzo and Crutchlow and all the riders have the same comments. It’s another thing if one rider is faster or slower. But I am the first one that wants a faster bike and an easier one, it will be easier for me as well. But is not like this, it’s a competitive bike and in the last race for example they finished P6 with Nakagami and P7 with a rookie rider, Alex. So, it is a good bike, it has potential but if you want to understand the bike, you have to crash many times, but you will understand it."
About the last race, a new circuit, Portimao – what do you think about this track?
"Portimao will be interesting to finish the season. I hope to be there, I hope to race there with MotoGP because I tested there with a Moto2 bike in 2012 – a long time ago but I remember the circuit and it was very nice. Many ups and downs, following the natural layout of the land, it was really nice, and it was very fun to race there. I hope I will be able try to be there and to finish the season in a good way."
Finally, a message to all the fans?
"I just want to say thanks, especially to all the Repsol Honda Team and also to all the fans. I received many, many great messages. I read many, many questions: ‘when will you come back?’ I don’t know, I don’t know when I will come back. I hope to comeback as soon as possible. I feel that it is sooner rather than later, so this is something good also. Let’s see but thanks for continuing to support me, supporting Honda and don’t worry, we will come back to the top."