Marc Marquez hasn’t been on track since last July but the six-time MotoGP champion at least made a return to Repsol Honda colours, alongside new team-mate Pol Espargaro, for the team's 2021 online presentation.

Complications from a fractured arm at the Jerez season-opener meant Marquez never completed a race last year and has now undergone three operations, most recently last December.

During that operation, some infection was detected, which was the reason why the bone had failed to heal. Fortunately, the latest medical update spoke of a 'favourable' situation, with doctors satisfied at the signs of bone regrowth.

Nonetheless, Marquez is yet to be seen on any kind of motorcycle and today ruled out being ready for the start of official testing in Qatar next month.

The #93 added that "the next target is the Qatar race" but made clear that will depend on what the doctors say about his healing bone and few would be surprised if Stefan Bradl also takes his place again when the new season begins on March 28...

"Step-by-step I feel much better and the recovery is going in a good way. Every time I went to the doctor normally we have good news. It's really important because last year was long and tough," Marquez said during the pre-recorded presentation.

"Now we just try to follow my body with the physio and doctor, increase the work at home. But I don’t know - and the doctors don’t know - when I will be ready to return. But the most important is that every week I feel better.

"I'm optimistic to be on the bike as soon as possible but I don't know exactly the day. I miss the team, the racing, the adrenaline… everything!

"It's been 10 months without a bike and the first time I will ride the MotoGP again I will not be 100%. One thing is to be 100% on the bone side, another is to be 100% for the muscles and everything.

"We'll see if it takes one race, two races or half-a-season to be the same Marc as before," he added, before underlining that his ambition for 2021 is simply to enjoy riding again, rather than any kind of title target.

"I think every rider has a time in his life with a big injury," said team manager Alberto Puig. "Marc had a long injury last year but you cannot change what you are. He is a true champion and a special rider."

Espargaro meanwhile arrives at Repsol Honda fresh from his best yet MotoGP season, finishing fifth overall in last year's world championship for KTM. The Spaniard also took five podiums last season, but is yet to win a MotoGP race.

A title rival of Marquez in the smaller classes, Espargaro has made clear he signed for Repsol Honda to fight for the MotoGP title and test himself as team-mate to the best rider in the world.

"Now wearing the leathers for the first time, you see it's real and the excitement is super high, in the clouds!" said Espargaro of joining Repsol Honda.

"We expect and hope for a big competition inside the team, it's what makes the team stay alive and the level grows," said Puig of his rider line-up. 

After dominating MotoGP with Marc Marquez in recent seasons, Honda didn’t even win a race last year, a situation that hasn't happened in the premier-class since 1981.

Honda's only podiums of last season were by rookie Alex Marquez, who has moved from Repsol to LCR to make room for Espargaro, with Takaaki Nakagami finishing tenth overall and the top Honda rider in the world championship.

But although 2020 was a painful season for HRC without Marc Marquez, the factory made technical progress in refining the RCV to suit less extreme talents and (despite the technical freeze on engine changes) has continued further in that direction over the winter, with a new chassis, swingarm and exhaust already tested by Bradl for the 2021 bike.

 

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