Marquez absence hands opportunity to title rivals in Jerez

Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) (AFP) –


Marc Marquez will miss this weekend's Andalucia Grand Prix after breaking his arm in Jerez last week, leaving his rivals with an excellent chance to steal an early march in the MotoGP title race.

The six-time elite-class world champion crashed out of the delayed season-opening Spanish Grand Prix last Sunday as France's Fabio Quartararo took his maiden MotoGP victory.

Honda will not replace Marquez in their factory team for the race, also in Jerez, while LCR-Honda's Cal Crutchlow faces a battle to be fit in time after he underwent surgery on his left wrist.

With only 13 MotoGP races confirmed so far for the 2020 season, Marquez's absence hands Quartararo and Yamaha's Maverick Vinales the advantage.

"Everyone who races in the world championship has the unfortunate possibility of getting injured and having to go to the operating room," said Honda team manager Alberto Puig, with Marquez hoping to be back in time for the next race after Jerez -- the Czech Grand Prix on August 9.

"Unfortunately, it was our turn and it was Marc who has had to undergo surgery.

"Now we have to be patient to see how Marc recovers and to understand when he can return."

On Wednesday, however, an unconfirmed Spanish media report claimed that Marquez had not entirely ruled out racing this weekend despite having undergone surgery on Tuesday.

Quartararo dominated last week despite only riding for Yamaha's satellite outfit, finally converting a pole position into a MotoGP win at the seventh time of asking.

The 21-year-old, the first Frenchman to win a MotoGP race since 1999, insists he can still get better.

"Winning the GP, honestly it was the best," said Quartararo, who finished fifth in the riders' standings last season as a rookie.

"I think we can still improve because the pace of those around us was really good so we need to look to see which areas we should work on.

"We need to enjoy this victory but also focus on the next race this weekend as this new calendar is intense with few breaks so it's important to stay concentrated."

- Rossi under pressure -

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi will be replaced at Yamaha's factory team by Quartararo in 2021 and the Italian veteran was left trailing by the winner last week.

The 41-year-old retired from the race after struggling in qualifying and a final tilt at an eighth top-class title appears unlikely.

"The Spanish GP was difficult for me. I struggled a lot in the heat because of tyre degradation," said Rossi, who has suggested he will probably take Quartararo's spot at Yamaha-SRT next year.

"I feel good and I'm ready to fight again."

Rossi's teammate Vinales helped deliver a one-two for Yamaha bikes last week and the Spaniard will be hoping to mount a serious title challenge this year after finishing third in 2019, albeit 209 points behind Marquez.

Ducati will be hoping for better pace after Andrea Dovizioso's third-place finish masked the disappointment of a poor qualifying.

However, it was still a personal triumph for Dovizioso who had broken his collarbone in a training accident just three weeks earlier.

Suzuki's Alex Rins could join Marquez and Crutchlow in missing out after suffering a shoulder injury in qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix.

"I'll give it a go on Friday," wrote Crutchlow on Instagram ahead of opening practice.

Honda's factory team will only feature Marquez's younger brother Alex, who laboured to 12th on his MotoGP debut after winning the Moto2 championship last year.

"I am confident for the weekend, I learned a lot in my first GP and now I can apply it directly on the track again," he said.