Alex Marquez's crew chief also in isolation after 'reactive' PCR result

Alex Marquez without his LCR Honda crew chief for most of the Qatar MotoGP weekend, team-mate Takaaki Nakagami chooses new Honda chassis.
Alex Marquez, Qatar MotoGP test, 6 March 2021
Alex Marquez, Qatar MotoGP test, 6 March 2021
© Gold and Goose

Suzuki's decision to ask all its team members to remain in Qatar between testing and the MotoGP race weekend - to limit the risk of Covid-related disruption - appears to have been a sensible precaution.

On the eve of the season-opener it was confirmed that two MotoGP riders – Maverick Vinales and Alex Marquez - will be without their crew chiefs for the majority of the race weekend due to unclear ('reactive') PCR results for Covid-19 upon returning to Doha.

The 'reactive' result sits between positive and negative. It means the crew chiefs - Esteban Garcia for Vinales at Monster Yamaha and Christophe 'Beefy' Bourguignon at LCR Honda - must now remain in isolation until posting two successive negative PCR results, several days apart.

Both have passed the first of those tests, but the delay until the second means neither crew chief will be at the track for Friday practice and it's doubtful they will be cleared in time for Saturday's qualifying. However they should be in place for Sunday's season-opener, as well as next weekend's second round.

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"Yeah, it's Beefy," confirmed Alex Marquez. "He arrived here on I think Sunday night. They made the PCR in the airport then he was in quarantine in the room like everybody else waiting for the result.

"He tested 'reactive', not negative or positive. 'Reactive' is one thing they have here in Qatar if you are close to positive but not in the level of positive. So you need to be in quarantine and after three days, which was yesterday, he did another test, that was negative.

"And I think now he needs to follow the protocol and maybe he needs to make another test to get the second negative, and then he can go out. So I hope to have him maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday. It will be close so I hope that his second test will be negative and he will be here at the track very soon."

While Beefy, like Garcia, will be doing all he can to assist his rider from the hotel, Marquez revealed his Plan B crew chief is non other than HRC technical manager Takeo Yokoyama.

"Beefy's made a lot of work already during these days, all the plan that we will follow tomorrow, all the plan we will follow Saturday," Marquez said. "I did a one hour meeting with him on the computer, also with David [Garcia, data recording] and Jaume [Carrau, engine mapping] and Takeo, who will be the guy that replaces him officially.

"So this is the Plan B but we are always working with Beefy who is in the hotel connected to the computer 24 hours a day ready to answer our questions!"

Marquez, switching to LCR Honda after a rookie season at the Repsol team, suffered five falls during pre-season testing, the last of which left him with a small fracture in this foot.

However, he has been cleared to ride this weekend.

"The Doctor saw that the small incomplete fracture has progressed a lot, they saw everything is working normal, I did some small jumps and things like this and they said okay you are fit," he confirmed.

"We understand why the crashes happened, I did some mistakes, the other ones were typically like in Turn 2 in a time attack which can happen. So we changed the traction control strategy for that corner. It's something that step-by-step we are improving from.

"It’s true I did many mistakes but we did good work. The most important thing is we start racing now and everybody starts from zero. It will be important to be calm and have a good pace on Sunday."

While team-mate Takaaki Nakagami, also on the latest RC213V machinery this season, has opted for the new chassis, Marquez will be using a frame very similar to last year.

"I think I have some margin to improve with this chassis so I will follow with this one because I made the back-to-back and this one was a bit better for my riding style," Marquez explained. "So I will follow my plan like last year and try to have a normal evolution from last year and keep the same level. So I will start like last year's chassis."

I just said to Marc, 'you're a bastard!'

Alex also commented on the joke his brother made on social media, showing the #73 gritting his teeth during an 'easy' bike ride together.

"He did a hundred pictures but he put the worst one, where I was with that face! So I just said to him, 'you're a bastard!' " Alex laughed.

"But we know him, we're always making jokes all day. It was just an easy ride, 1 hour and 10mins or something, just to have some fresh air.

"It felt good to share some bicycling with him. Now I'm looking forward to sharing the track with him again and having him here, which I hope will be soon and it will be good news for everybody."

Takaaki Nakagami Qatar MotoGP Test, 12 March 2021
Takaaki Nakagami Qatar MotoGP Test, 12 March 2021
© Gold and Goose Photography

Nakagami goes for the new chassis

Speaking separately, Nakagami explained his reasons for going with the new Honda chassis, which HRC test rider Stefan Bradl has been developing.

"Before the race weekend we discussed with Giacomo and HRC and I decided to go ahead with the new chassis. Both bikes. So like this we don’t need to compare with the old one," Nakagami said.

"The first impression with the new chassis was some positive feeling on the handling and also a bit more turning by the front. This is really important for the rider and with the old chassis it's quite difficult to feel the turning, but suddenly with the new chassis on the 2nd-3rd lap I felt that definitely this chassis has some potential. That's why I chose the new chassis for this weekend and let's see."

Like his team-mate, Nakagami expects to perform much better during the race weekend than in testing.

"The top 10? No, hopefully we can fight for even the podium!" said the Japanese. "I had a struggle in the test but that is the test, now we are race weekend and for sure it’s a different story. Hopefully we can get a good start tomorrow in FP1 and FP2, be in a good position in all sessions and be ready for a strong race."

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