‘The doctors asked why’ – Rins explains unexpected MotoGP return
LCR Honda rider Alex Rins has admitted that when he announced his plan to return to action at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi, the first question his doctors asked him was why.
But Rins – who will join the factory Yamaha team in 2024 – believes that the chance to try out a MotoGP machine again is the logical next step in his recovery, and one that he has to make to assess the condition of his leg.
The US Grand Prix race winner badly broke his right leg in a highside at Mugello back in May, and has been on the sidelines since then as he’s struggled not only with broken tibia and fibula bones but also with extensive nerve damage that has so far presented a much bigger challenge in his return.
Only getting signed off to return to action during his latest hospital appointment in Madrid on Tuesday when his doctors were able to see extensive improvement on the healing of his breaks, he immediately jumped on a flight to Japan for an 11th-hour return that he says is important more for the “feedback” he hopes to take from it than anything else.
“I’m feeling good,” he told the media in Motegi, “and happy to be back, to be here. It’s quite impressive, because two days ago I was in Madrid in the hospital with the doctors, talking and comparing the x-rays. Obviously it was a huge difference comparing one month ago to two days ago, so we decided to continue the steps and the next one is to jump onto a MotoGP bike.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be painful or not, but let’s see. I passed the medical exam, so let’s see tomorrow. The main target is to see if it is painful or not. I have a lot of pain in the lateral [muscle] so we need to see if it’s super painful or not. I know that it is a long way from home, 16 hours on a plane, but if it’s painful I’ll need to stop and continue to recover.
“It’s more pain than strength. For sure I’ve lost all my muscle, but I’m more or less in a good shape. But in a good shape to put some weight on in the gym, not on the bike. It’s been a long time without riding this bike.
“The quadriceps is still not the same muscle as before, but the last two or three weeks I’ve already been training in a normal way to recover muscle, pushing a normal weight. But riding a MotoGP bike is so different.”
With physical recovery going well, it means that Rins is now adamant that the next phase of his recovery is to push himself further – even if that means a trip all the way to Japan just to see what happens.
“At home, I can walk more or less normally,” he explained. “But when you are at 300 kilometres per hour, it’s a lot different. I tried the last time in Aragon and it was super painful on the change of direction, on the right corners, but for sure Aragon was too aggressive, so I don’t know. It was one month ago, so let’s see.
“Basically, this is one step forward on my rehabilitation. It’s very difficult to compare the feeling with a street bike to a MotoGP bike. The first time I jumped on the bike was a very small bike and the pain was terrible. I couldn’t do more than 10 laps of a karting track.
“I waited and did 20 laps on a streetbike. It was painful, but much less than with the street bike. We’re in the phase now where we are burning [through] phases.”
Unable to ride a MotoGP bike at home given the series’ restrictions on testing outside limited official events, it means that Rins got no other opportunity rather than turning up to a race weekend.
“I want to have feedback from my leg,” he explained. “This is exactly the question the doctors asked me, why do I want to come back so early? And I said that basically if now we can see a difference, then I want to see it, I want to experiment.
“I want to see the difference between jumping one month ago onto a 250 kg bike, now with a 150kg bike that’s more powerful and more rigid. I want to have feedback, because already some weeks ago [I’ve been] training in the gym in a normal way, but I can’t test a MotoGP bike at home.
“It’s Japan which is super far away, 16 hours on the plane, and maybe tomorrow the jet lag is kicking me hard, but if we have this feedback here in Japan it’s better than in Indonesia. I know we’re out of points in the championship to fight for it, but it’s been many days at home.
“It can happen that tomorrow it’s super painful and too hard, and I can’t continue the weekend on Saturday or Sunday. But we came here to test myself, to test my leg.”