He’s not even 30 and he’s already one of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time. After a meteoric rise through the ranks of motorcycle grand prix racing, he made his debut in MotoGP in 2013, and with the exception of 2015 and 2020, has been pretty bloody dominant ever since. But what’s going on? How is it that the Repsol Honda-riding-Spaniard has been able to make the opposition look daft so many times? He’s been doing it since his premier class debut, back when he was a spotty teenager. Is he some sort of demi-god? Has he been sent from the future? Is Marc Marquez special?
There’s no doubt that the now, devastatingly handsome athlete has brought a soupcon of something seriously special to the MotoGP grid, but is that ‘special something’ really exclusive to the gammy-armed 28 year old? Or has 2020 taught the rest of the grid that MM93 is only human after all?
Let’s have a look at what happened in 2020, shall we? Don’t worry, I’m not talking about the dreaded coronavirus. I’m talking about the MotoGP championship, which was one of the closest, hardest fought in a long time. And not just by a couple of characters at the front of the field, but by nearly half of them. In 2020, there were 9 MotoGP race winners, in 2019 there were only 5. Marquez took 12 wins for himself. And if he didn’t win, he came second (apart from in America, when he DNF’d).
All the way through the 2020 season there were a handful of different riders that looked strong enough to take the title. And at the end of the season, when Mir clinched it, there were 13 riders within 100 points of him. A year previously, when MM93 won, there wasn’t a single rider within 100 points of him. And there was only Dovi within 200. That alone would make Marc Marques special to some.
The point I’m trying to make is that in the absence of Marc Marquez, there’re plenty of riders that are capable of winning a MotoGP race. And if they’re capable of winning a MotoGP race, they’re capable of winning 10. And if they’re capable of winning 10, they’re capable of winning a championship.
But that’s in the absence of his royal highness, king Marc, right? Well yeah, but, let’s have a think about who these people are; the people that we all expect to be snapping at the heals of the Repsol Rider when the 2021 season gets underway. Quartararo, Binder, Olivera, Morbidelli, Marc’s little brother Alex and reigning champ Joan Mir. They’re all relatively new to MotoGP. Or they were. Now, with a season or two under their belts and another year’s worth of development on their racing machines, they’ll no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in 2021. And if you’re Marc Marquez, you ought to be concerned.
There’s no doubt that when Marc came to MotoGP and sat on one of the best bikes going (if not the best), with his loose-as-a-goose but as-fast-as-fuck riding style, the rest of the grid had to up their game if they wanted to stand half a chance of keeping up with him. They all tried, and a few of the old-timers even managed to beat him every now and then, but still he remained dominant.
But that was then, and this is now. Now there are a new crop of riders that have grown up watching Marquez, studying how he rides and putting it into good use themselves. They’ve not only spent 2020 sharing race wins between each other, they’ve spent it developing what were second rate bikes, into race winning machines. Whilst Marc has been busy with hospital appointments and opening windows, the rest of the field have been closing the gap.
It’s looking like Marquez the elder will be back on the grid in 2021. If he is, I’ve no doubt that we’ll regularly see him climbing onto the podium. In fact, if I’m being brutally honest, I still think we will see him up there more than anyone else. Yes, if he’s fit, I think he is going to win the championship. But, unlike in recent years, I wouldn’t bet my house on it this time. I reckon he is going to have some serious competition this year. I haven’t decided exactly who it is going to be from yet, but I can’t wait to find out.