Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez is King of COTA having dominated the MotoGP podium in all but one visit to Texas, the only fail coming with a DNF from the lead.
The left handed layout has historically always played to the 28-year-old’s strengths but with a strong showing at Misano’s clockwise circuit now under his belt - where he just missed the podium, in fourth - has his confidence in his ongoing recovery grown that little bit more?
“The approach of the weekend, for example, compare Misano and Austin is a bit different because I know that normally in this race track I enjoy it a lot. This year I will try to enjoy it, because if we take this season, I’m suffering more than enjoying, but anyway we will see.
“It’s a tough track, a lot of change directions, a lot of brake points but lucky is on the left side so this will help. I’m ready to enjoy, if I enjoy it on the bike, the result will arrive.”
Marquez heads to the United States fresh from a promising Misano test, where HRC rolled out the first views of its 2022 bike.
“As you see in Misano we try the Proto 2022 and was a big difference. One of the biggest differences since I’m in Honda, and they are working very, very hard and I think was very interesting. We improve our weak points. Of course, if you improve the weak points, then arrive other problems but we already understand a bit. Me and Pol, the comments were very similar. Both of us with the new bike, we were fast so the first contact was nice, was good, but anyway we need to keep working. Try to understand in another race track, try to understand with less grip, because Misano test the grip was unbelievable and was so easy to be fast. Now it’s time to keep working and try to prepare 2022 season.
“Of course we are looking for a faster bike, smoother, more grip, more turning, I mean, everywhere! But is true that our weak point this year is the rear grip, is where we focus more and definitely we improve. But then we lose a bit in turning but we understand that with different concept bike, we can gain in many areas, but we can lose also in one of our strongest points, now that is the entry to corners.
“Anyway, the balance, the lap time in the end was very similar, but is important when you receive new parts, that from the start you’re already on the same pace than the old one, without touching anything. So now it’s time to analyse, to understand where and improve for the Jerez test.”
The Repsol rider has a stellar history with the Austin circuit, and the USA in general, having won 12 times on American soil, and six times at the Texas track - with seven poles to boot. When asked the key to his success, the Catalan was keeping tight lipped.
“The secrets? I don’t know it’s just suiting well my riding style since I arrived here,” he said simply. “First time, I remember was the pre-season 2013, was [Jorge] Lorenzo, Valentino [Rossi], me and Dani [Pedrosa] and I was two-seconds faster than them in a private test. But I don’t know why. Honda was asking me but I don’t know why, it just suited well for my riding style.
“Is true that the track has changed a lot, is now many bumps and is more difficult to understand the way to be fast, but I know that I will suffer a bit, maybe in the change directions. But if I keep calm during the weekend, I think I can manage in a good way. The long right corner in sector four is where I will feel worse but anyway, I don’t want to think about my shoulder this weekend. I just wanna enjoy it on the track, I mean I will suffer again in next Misano but now here, if I can enjoy, I will try.”
The eight-time world champion is not in contention for the title this season but what does he see of the two who are vying, and hard, for glory in 2021.
“Both of them, they are riding very fast and now the level of them, like we saw in Misano, they were in another level than the others,” Marquez said of Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia.
“It’s something that when you are fighting for a championship, you give something extra. You don’t know why, but you have something extra there, from your concentration for the moment, and both of them they are riding very, very fast.
“Strong point of Quartararo is that he has two races advantage. If he makes a mistake, still he’s there in the championship, if he make another mistake, still he is there. Weak point of Pecco is this one, the disadvantage - he cannot make any mistake. So for that reason I think Quartararo can manage better the situation, but in motorcycle world you never know. Strong point of Pecco of course will be the stop and go circuits, Quartararo is the flowing corners. So saying that, they must push and good luck!
“Of course, pressure is something that always is there,” he said reflecting on his own career. “But when you arrive to a race track like this one, everybody expect a great race and also your opponents are pointing on you. It’s something that in the past for example when I arrived in MotoGP effect a bit, and on Thursday already in the press conference I was nervous. But with the years, is something that you accept and now it’s easy to manage. Of course I will do my 100% and of course, my intention is try to be there and fight with these guys, but it’s something that also you need to find the moment, the correct moment to do it. So, we will try this weekend, we will try to do a great weekend, but this doesn’t mean that will be a victory. A podium already will be a great race.”