Pending some unforeseen COVID-19 calamity, MotoGP is just about ready to start its 2021 racing season. The all-electric MotoE class starts its testing at Jerez on March 2; the rest of the circus starts the Qatar test on March 6. However, for the second season in a row, the series’ greatest star is in doubt. Marc Marquez, the all-conquering ace off the Honda factory team, is still rehabbing a nasty shoulder injury, and will miss the first test. And, he isn’t saying for sure when he is coming back.

Marquez’s problems go all the way back to the end of the 2019 season, when he continued racing after clinching the championship, despite obvious lingering damage from crashes earlier in the year. At season’s end, after a win at Motegi, Marquez went to hug fellow racer Scott Redding … and dislocated his shoulder. Uh-Oh.

After rehabbing his injury during the off-season, Marquez returned to action at the start of 2020, and was obviously slower in pre-season practice rounds due to his injury. The damage was still there, and he wasn’t getting better. Some insiders figured the delayed start to the MotoGP season might work in his favour, as he had more time off to heal, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Marquez injured himself again in a crash, and spent the rest of the summer, then fall, and now winter rehabbing again.

Since last summer, there’s been considerable suspicion that Marquez, in his effort to return to the track, got on a bike when he wasn’t supposed to, and actually worsened his injury. Supposedly, Marquez’s team had actually been instructed to dismantle his factory race bikes, so he couldn’t attempt a premature comeback. Some insiders are now speculating Marquez found himself a ride elsewhere and made the injury worse.

Whatever the case, it seems he still isn’t properly mended. Now, Marquez has had three surgeries on his right arm, and a replacement plate inserted, after he broke the original. He hasn’t raced in months, and he may not return for months yet. He’s going to miss the first Qatar test, and Honda isn’t saying for sure when he is expected back.

Here’s what Marquez himself has to say:

“I have continued to work with the doctors, with my team and with myself to recover and return to MotoGP. Of course, I would have liked to return sooner, but it is very important to listen to the doctors and my body until I am fully fit. I can imagine the best comeback that is to start riding again the bike and be the same, but it will be difficult to be like this. But we will see if it takes one race, two races, half the season to be the same Marc. I will not be at the Qatar Test as I aim to return only when I am 100% and there is still some work to do.”

Half a season? That doesn’t sound hopeful, but if that really did happen, you can bet the second half of the 2021 MotoGP season will be well worth watching.

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