Marc Marquez Is Making Everybody Look Stupid

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Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez is _____. Flawless. Peerless. Relentless. Invincible.

What superlatives haven’t been used to describe the 21 year old Spaniard? His career to date has left motorcycle racing journalists scrambling for their thesauruses in a vain attempt to describe the imperious way he has taken on the fastest riders in the world, and systematically destroyed them.

Last season, all the experts figured he would do well, win a few races, but otherwise get his clock cleaned by a supremely talented field. We all thought he’d have a rookie season much like Jorge Lorenzo did in 2008, when the latter’s brilliant talent was plain to see, but he crashed his brains out on more than one occasion. The conventional wisdom was that to beat Lorenzo, who has since become the model of consistent, mechanical efficiency on the track, a rider would have to play his game.

Marc Marquez

Marquez doesn’t subscribe to conventional wisdom, or heed the experts. He stood on the podium in all but two of the eighteen rounds of the 2013 season, collecting six victories en route to winning the championship. In doing so, he became the first rookie to win the premier class since Kenny Roberts in 1978, and dethroned Freddy Spencer as the youngest ever top category world champion. His sixteen podiums tied riders with names like Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Lorenzo for most in a single season.

I mentioned it was his rookie year, right?

He can win all alone, from the front, as he has done at the Circuit of the Americas and Jerez. He can win despite mistakes and poor starts, as he did at Argentina and Le Mans. He can win in a fight, as he did at Qatar against Rossi, this past weekend at Mugello, where he battled a determined Lorenzo for the final several laps before beating him to the line by a tenth. He’s won all six races so far this season. He wins in qualifying, having taken all six pole positions. He even wins in testing, posting the fastest times at the Jerez post-race test. In his 24 MotoGP starts to date, he’s been on pole 15 times (63%), finished on the podium 22 times (92%), and won the race 12 times (50%).

(All that, and to hear him tell it, his younger brother Alex is faster. What?!)

If the combined grids of MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3, World Superbike and several national championships all sat down to breakfast simultaneously, the smart money would be on Marquez finishing his eggs and bacon first.

Marc Marquez

And he’s having fun all the while, as his broad smile on the podium and almost giddy post-race interviews show. It’s as if the gravity of what he’s doing to the fastest riders in the world hasn’t dawned on him. He’s just out there having fun, like you and I would at a track day, except his track days involve 250 horsepower motorcycles and the best tracks on the planet. His youth and relative inexperience has become an asset, as he has not yet learned that you simply can’t do what he does on a motorcycle and get away with it.

To say he’s the best rider we have ever seen in world championship motorcycle racing begs for comparison, but the problem is that no one compares. Rossi has had seasons of similar dominance (2002, 2003, 2005), but he was much further into his career, and achieved those seasons during a time of less parity at the front of the field. Perhaps we should look to another dominant Repsol Honda rider, Mick Doohan, who owned the 500cc championship for five consecutive seasons (1994-1998). If that’s what the future holds for Marquez, the other riders may want to take up another sport. Badminton, maybe.

Marc Marquez

Admittedly, he’s on the best equipment with the best team on the grid, and riding for Honda, who has never been shy of spending unimaginable sums of money on even the slightest problem to keep their riders on top. He’s able to use the current iteration of the spec Bridgestone slicks to their fullest potential, something other riders (notably Lorenzo) have struggled to do this year. But watching the way Marquez rides, you can only think that he doesn’t care much about the equipment. Like Stoner, he visibly wrings every ounce out of every bike he rides, and you’re led to believe he’d do so on any bike on the grid. And probably win, doing it.

What will stop Marquez? Nobody wins forever, but as yet there has been no visible crack in his game for other riders to exploit. Besting him in a race will probably come down to his own mistake, but it’ll have to be a hell of a mistake. And even once somebody does beat him, it may be too late for the championship. There are no guarantees in motorcycle racing, but with a 53 point lead only 1/3 of the way through the season, it’s hard to imagine how anyone will catch him.

The series heads next to Catalunya, Marquez’ home Gran Prix, where last year he stood on the podium after a late-race fracas with teammate Dani Pedrosa. One more victory would match Rossi’s best streak from 2002. The next mark would be Doohan’s ten straight in 1997. Would you put it past Marquez? You shouldn’t. It remains to be seen whether there will be any records left standing, by the time he is finished.

  • Aaron

    The way he rides makes me feel like he is racing the Moto2 class. He just chooses to be faster than the person in front of him and then he is.

  • Bluesceyes

    My personal opinion is that he doesn’t know what “the fear” is. No one is going to go out there, wash out the front on a turn and save it with your elbow unless they had a taste of the recuperation when you can’t save it. Just my opinion. He throws that bike around a lot like Casey Stoner without giving two $hits.

    • Aaron

      All of the best racers and riders win because they don’t have that fear or they are able to stay on that line for a race. It is pretty amazing. I’m not sure if he has had any bad crashes yet, but he may ride with the “what if” after he has a bad one.

    • BobasBounty

      He started the season with a broken leg from off-season motocross racing. There may be some GP racers who haven’t had life threatening injuries, but I am almost certain they have all broken many bones getting to where they are.

      • Bluesceyes

        In relative speak, a broken leg from goofing off on a dirtbike isn’t in the same ballpark as having your leg shattered after a 100mph highside like Rossi at Mugello in ’10. In the Fastest documentary, Jorge makes mention of this and how you can see riders come off their game after a massive crash that they don’t mentally recover from.

        • BobasBounty

          Goofing off on a dirt bike? Lol, most or all GP riders are very serious dirt riders. Like competitive, high level motocross. It’s the only way to keep their skills at peak.

          Of course there are riders who get hurt and never recover mentally, but implying Marquez hasn’t had a “massive” crash is sort of misleading. I suppose he hasn’t been bed ridden for 6 months… If that’s the test?

          • Aaron

            I ride dirt bikes and I will not compare that to MotoGP. A massive crash in MGP is waaaaaay different than a massive crash in MX or SX.

        • From_Dust

          Last year at Mugello Marquez crashed on the straight at over 200 mph. Its the fastest recorded crash in MotoGP. he literally jumped off the bike.

    • Gonfern

      You’ve seen him have the biggest moments, and it doesn’t even phase him, in fact, he will almost highside in one sector and post the fastest time in the next….he doesnt even back off.

      I would pay BIG money to see Stoner come back to HRC and watch them two go at it, because Stoner could have been another legendary talent.

      • Bluesceyes

        I am not a Stoner cheerleader by any stretch but he did have legendary talent. I loved watching him slide that Honda and Ducati all over the track. We just don’t see that anymore with the exception of the youngster in question.

      • ryu600RR

        not to mention, MM in reality just inherited Casey’s bike, so what i’d like to see really is Casey on his own bike, and MM on DP’s bike for a change, that’s what would really settle it for me

    • roma258

      The thing is, he’s had some pretty bad crashes in Moto2. I remember he had a bad one where his visions was blurry for months afterwards, MONTHS!! If that happens to me, I either pack it up, or at least back the eff off. Instead, he’s riding even harder, all the while looking like a Spanish Justin Bieber. It’s weird.

  • BobasBounty

    You know, after the last race, all talk has revolved around Lorenzo. It’s kind of telling though that at Austin, arguably Marquez’s favorite track, he led the entire race and won by like 5 seconds. Mugello, arguably Lorenzo’s favorite track, Marquez still beat him.

    • Gonfern

      I dont think it matters. He went to Laguna, one of the most difficult track in the world and punked Rossi like he grew up racing in California. The kid is just something else. His vision of the track and sense for what the bike is doing is out of this world

      • BobasBounty

        Oh no doubt. Lorenzo gave him (what appeared to us) his stiffest competition of the season at Mugello. Rossis still “got it”, but I just don’t think he’s got the pace this season. Some have said that they think Sunday was Marquez playing the game like classic Rossi by making it a race when it didn’t have to be. He turned in his second fastest lap on the LAST lap. The whole back and forth between he and Lorenzo ended before it got dangerously close to the end. He even said prior to the race that he knew fans were getting bored with him running away with everything, so maybe he put on a show? Who know?

        • Gonfern

          ^THIS! I Agree 100% hes a student of what makes Rossi great. both on the track and in the hearts of the fans. Everyone knew how good Stoner was, but he didnt play the game, so everyone hated him. Jorge tries to be cheeky as well, but it looks forced. Watch interviews of Rossi from his teenage years. The goofy antics, the cheesy smile…its like watching the same person. The little dance he does with his team is genius, the fans are happy to see him on the top of the podium so they can yell “ho ho ho..” and make him dance. lol Rossi said it best “its like watching Rossi 2.0″

          • BobasBounty

            Yea, I’d like to see Rossi win as much as Marquez because they’re both the good guy. Lorenzo has let his prima Donna show too many times, and he has no personality. Every time dorna makes a decision he doesn’t like, he pouts. Marquez on the other hand gives a “as long as we can race, it’ll be alright”… Of course, I’m going to root for him.

  • Gonfern

    As a lifelong Rossi fan, I can say that we are witnessing history. What makes a great is not playing the game better than all before him. A true legend changes the way the game is played. He changed the way we race a motorcycle. Ever since Kenny Roberts Sr. put his knee on the ground, it was scientific that the fastest way around a corner is to get far off the bike, keep the bike upright as much as possible to increase grip. Here comes a naive rookie that obviously was not tought physics in Dorna High and says “No I’m going to stay in close to the bike, tuck my head against the crank case, and bring the bike down to me” In his rookie year he changed how a motorcycle is ridden. Rossi himself has admitted that he had to relearn to ride his bike in order to keep up. Watching video of Lorenzo from a few years back, you can see he has also adapted this style.

    • Twin Verb

      I agree. I saw more elbow down out of Lorenzo in that last race than ever. They are gonna have to adapt.

  • TechGuy5489

    I’ll be curious to see how the rule change about brake rotors comes into play for the rest of the season. I can’t help but wonder if that wasn’t part of why Lorenzo was so pesky this past weekend. Also up in the air is how the change from Bridgestone to Dunlop will affect the field when it happens.

  • motoenthusiast

    He’s the Senna of MotoGP. Unparalleled talent, hopefully his career also doesn’t end tragically on the track.

  • Eyvind Mondragon

    Yeap, his riding as in Moto2. When he enters the curves, he slides the rear tire. Just about everybody in Moto2 does it.

    I guess in MotoGP riders are told that sliding the rear is a big no no, that you have to get corner speed. Probably Marquez didn’t know how to do that, and has been doing it the way he feels more comfortable with. Honda took notice, and has left him alone.
    Yeap, last year he was utterly fearless. Mugello 2013 can testify to that. This year he’s been way more cautious. I don’t think out of “fear”, but because this kid means business. He wants the world, and he wants it now.

    Just like Rossi played mental games with people all the time. Imposing trends (leg dangle), being aggressive, being confrontative.

    Marquez is doing the same in his own kitchy way. Winning using impossible tactics, and then stating that the part of the race he enjoyed the most is when he was losing.
    How do you react to that? Going from 10th to second in a couple of laps? Telling Rossi he was disappointed because he was expecting a fight?
    Telling Lorenzo that he was using a strategy to win all along (probably not, but he likes to play with Lorenzo).

    Now riders are trying to emulate Moto2 slide, swing and shoot style that Marquez is using.

    He celebrates big time with his team. Like freaking celebrating as if his team won for him. Never gloomy. Even when he looses (remember Phillip Island, Mugello last year). It’s incredible. Mentally, he’s way above.
    I love how he’s pressing everybody to up the ante.

    Keep it up Marquez!

    • BillW

      And yet, somehow, with all that sliding, his tires last until the end of the race when other riders’ tires fade!

      • Gonfern

        I think he fades too, but like Stoner, he hangs on to it and keeps on pushing harder than everyone else.

    • Gonfern

      Part of his (and everyone else) ability to slide the rear in and shoot WOT out of the apex is also a huge credit to the technology in the engine control. They can dial in a huge amount of engine braking into a corner and set a perfect amount of traction control out so he can just snap the throttle, stand the bike up and rocket out of the corner. That style of riding would have led to a massive highside a few years ago. It will be interesting to see what happens to riding style and the dominance of these young kids once Dorna implements the ECM rules. Suddenly guys like Rossi who can control grip using the throttle will have a slight advantage…for half a race at least until Marquez can sort it

      • Eyvind Mondragon

        Yeap, Rossi competed on those “unrideables” 2-stroke 500cc bikes. You had to have super-human fine throttle control to squirt he last bit of power of those bikes and not end up in a high side.
        But, you saw Marquez riding in the rain… never did it before in a MotoGP machine. Ran poorly a few laps and then he LEARNED!!!
        Commentators said that it takes months or years for someone to master the rain.
        This kid did it in a few laps.
        It’s impressive.

        When the new ECU comes out, it’d be nice to see guys like Rossi up front.
        Must be hard for all them, knowing that they’re only borrowing the front for a few laps, or a few races.
        But lurking right behind them is that veritable tour de force of nature that is Marquez.
        Pretty tough indeed.

    • Stuki

      Anyone know why that much rear slip i suddenly faster? Are the tires so grippy now, that cornering speed when riding with less slip is limited by ability to lean the bike over? Meaning, you can maintain similar corner speed over a greater range of slip angles; hence the name of the game becomes to get the turn over with as soon as possible to lengthen the following straight? I doubt Marquez’ style would have been the fastest 10 years ago, and that nobody figured it out. More likely, equipment has changed just enough to render the technique that was optimal then, is no longer so.

      The kid is plain sick to watch, regardless of why. I don’t recall ever being so awestruck by any rider, ever. He really is playing a different game than the rest right now.

  • Damian

    I wonder who MM’s sports psychologist is… if he has one then I’d like to meet him or her and learn a few lessons.

  • Paul Cypert

    He’s an excellent rider, but in some of the races it’s clear his bike is just monstrously ahead of the other riders. He can ride the way he does because that bike can “push really really hard” more than others. I mean he’s able to pull away when others should be able to draft him…that’s not exceptional riding, that’s a bike that’s CLEARLY better than anything else on the track. Which is a shame…because it would be way more exciting if that second team bike wasn’t with Pedrossa and with Lorenzo or Rossi…then we’d know definitively. Until then for me it’s all amazing but there’s a slight asterix on it in my mind.

    • Jonathan Berndt

      the thing that i dont like is that the bike is locked in to wherever it was at the beginning of the season. if the machine is fast at the start, and a team has the advantage there is no way to make that up. the zero modification rule to the engines and the fuel limitation are the most foolish things ive ever heard in racing.
      either give everyone the same machine or allow modification. when one guy can win by like 16 seconds (granted its much closer this year), its no fun to watch any more.

      • TechGuy5489

        Well when the open ruleset becomes THE ruleset in a few seasons that won’t be a problem anymore.

    • Gonfern

      To an extent. Things like set-up and triple clamps are very rider specific. Pedrosa and him have the same resources, but he can communicate or help dial the bike into exactly what he needs it to do. For example, he opts to use a different triple clamp that Pedrosa which allows him to load the front tire much more, so that the bike will rotate around the front wheel much faster…thats how he slides the rear in so easily…hes basically riding a unicycle. That however makes the bike much more unstable under braking, so he has to hold on to it. “Better” isnt always more power and more money.

  • charlie

    You gotta give Rossi credit though. Even when he loses to Marquez, he still goes to congratulate him. I think it reminds him of when he was in his prime. He likes to have fun out there too.

  • Felix Morales

    I don’t think there will be a rider for years to come able to beat him.