Our snapshot of the reigning MotoGP world champion and what’s on his to-do list for the 2017 season.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU
Sorry, Valentino Rossi fans: Marc Marquez is the undisputed kingpin of MotoGP. From the moment he arrived in the premier class of two-wheel road racing in 2013, the oft-sideways Spaniard has shown the rest of the field the way more often than not, winning titles by speed, by smarts and by stealth in three of the ensuing four years. What’s in store for 2017? Glad you asked.
The fresh-faced Marquez turns just 24 on February 17; Rossi, by contrast, blows out 38 candles on his birthday cake the day prior. Marquez is a five-time world champion with 55 world championship race wins, and victories count for 61 per cent of his 90 career podiums. He also shares the all-time pole position record across all classes (65) with Jorge Lorenzo.
What he did last year
Learn that there’s more than one way to win a world title. After his 2014 tour de force when he won the first 10 races of the season and rampaged his way to a second MotoGP crown, Marquez was bitten by his ‘win it or bin it’ approach a year later, failing to finish six times as he relinquished the title to Lorenzo. Last year saw a smarter Marquez, the Repsol Honda rider finishing the first 15 races en route to sealing the title in that 15th race, the Japanese GP at Motegi in October.
What changes in 2017?
Not a lot. After an off-season where his likely world champion challengers swapped either teammates (Rossi) or teams (Lorenzo and Maverick Vinales), the Marquez camp – with crew chief Santi Hernandez in his ear, manager Emilio Alzamora pulling the strings and dad Julia riding the emotional rollercoaster in the back of the garage – remains intact. Why change what ain’t broke?
Number to know
In his first four premier-class seasons, Marquez has won 29 races. By comparison, Rossi won 33 races from 2000-03, and Lorenzo 17 from 2008-11.
With Lorenzo gone to Ducati on a world championship quest that will surely take time and with Vinales finding his feet at Yamaha, it has to be Rossi, doesn’t it? The Italian veteran never really figured in the title reckoning last year from the mid-point of the season after a slew of uncharacteristic crashes, and while the frosty relationship between Rossi and Marquez from late 2015 thawed to some degree last year, expect tensions to rise again if the pair clear off from the rest in the early part of the ’17 campaign.
Could Marquez set up his title defence before the series swings back to Europe and Jerez in round four? It’s very possible. He’s been on the podium in all but one of his four outings in the Qatar season-opener, while you can almost mark the third round in Austin as a win in indelible ink – remarkably, he’s never lost a MotoGP race in the US in eight attempts between COTA, Laguna Seca and Indianapolis since 2013. And in three races in Argentina, home to the race between Qatar and Austin, he’s won two of them. Rossi and the rest will be on guard for a blistering Marquez start.
Lorenzo comes out firing in Ducati red, Vinales’ pace from the outset as Rossi’s teammate drags both Yamahas into the mix, and Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa starts the season fit (a stretch given his wretched injury history) and in the form he hasn’t shown since Marquez’s rookie season of 2013, when he finished 13 of 17 races on the podium. Unlikely, but not impossible.
By the end of 2017, Marquez will have taken his fourth MotoGP world title in five years. Who or what stops him?