By Neil Morrison

Whatever happens in the 45-minute race on Sunday afternoon, 2013 will be best remembered for Marc Marquez's astonishing speed throughout his rookie MotoGP year.

With six wins, 15 podiums, eight pole positions and eleven fastest laps his first campaign has exceeded the expectations of almost everyone, including his own.

As he said after his second placed finish in Motegi, "We cannot forget that it's my first season and that [the championship] was not the target."

Marquez heads to Valencia, a circuit he won at in 2012 after starting from 33rd on the 11th row of the grid, 13 points clear of nearest challenger and reigning double champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Fourth place would be enough to make Marquez the first rookie champion in the premier class since 1978 and the first in any grand prix class since 2004, even if Lorenzo wins the race.

It's a rare feat - here are six of arguably the most impressive rookie winners in their class in grand prix history.

NB. In order to qualify for this list the rider must have completed no more than one grand prix in the category prior to the beginning of their victorious campaign.
John Surtees - 1956 500cc World Championship
1956 saw a changing of the guard in the motorcycle racing world. The domineering presence of Geoff Duke had won all before him in the early fifties, firstly aboard a Norton and then a Gilera, but he was all-too aware of a new figure emerging from the British scene.

John Surtees made a name for himself by rivalling Duke on the national circuit in 1953 and '54, with one local journalist famously dubbing him 'The man who made Duke hurry.' By 1956, having won his first grand prix at the previous season's round in Ulster, Surtees was top of many team's wish lists. He turned down offers to ride for BMW and Norton to sign for Count Domenico Agusta's team to spearhead their 500 and 350 efforts.

Taught to build and rebuild the engines of his own bikes by his father at a young age, Surtees' staunch work ethic was complimented by a natural mechanical know-how. Even Count Agusta was impressed with the 21-year old after he first tested MV's four cylinder 500. "Surtees rode like a veteran...as if he had known the machine for ages," he told the British press.

The 1956 series was run over six rounds with only the best results from four of those counting. The grid was robbed of its reigning champion for the first two rounds as Duke and team-mate Reg Armstrong were still serving a suspension after going on strike at the previous year's Dutch TT over rider earnings.

It couldn't have been more of an eventful start for Surtees after he hit a cow during practice for the Senior TT - the first round - just after Glen Helen. Miraculously Surtees was unharmed and went on to comfortably claim a win and the first eight points of the season later in the week aboard his spare machine.

The combination of the shrieking four-cylinder MV and Surtees won again at Assen and even a returning Duke couldn't stop him from triumphing at Spa Francorchamps. A strong finish at one of the final three rounds would surely be enough to claim his first world championship. Yet racing is rarely that straightforward and Surtees badly broke his right arm in the 350 race at the following round at Solitude in a crash that he later described as the worst of his motorcycle career.

Despite his prospects of holding on to the lead in the 500 series diminishing, he received good news upon having lunch in his Stuttgart hospital. Both Duke and BMW threat Walter Zeller had retired in the main race at Solitude and when Zeller's BMW failed to complete the penultimate race at Dundrod, Surtees could finally sit back in his hospital bed knowing he had won his first World Championship.

The argument put forward that Surtees only triumphed because of Duke's absence was a flimsy one. After proving a stern competitor to the Norton rider in countless national meetings, Surtees beat the Norton man in a straight fight in both the 350 and 500 races at Silverstone at the close of 1955, demonstrating he had matured into one of, if not the, finest rider of his time.

1956 was the first of four 500 titles for Surtees and so began MV's dominance of the series that would last until the mid seventies.

Tom Phillis - 1961 125cc World Championship
The tale of the 1961 125 Championship was of two men from two vastly different backgrounds. Tom Phillis was a renowned privateer whose speed and radical style of hanging off the bike had earned him a call up to Honda's ranks. And Ernst Degner, the fiercely competitive East German who, we later found out, craved much more than just success on the racetrack.

While Phillis and wife Betty had sold all their belongings in Australia to move to Europe and compete in the Continental Circus, Degner had grown up in the GDR and was backed by MZ and Walter Kaaden, the father of the two-stroke engine design. His performances on a local machine made him a national sporting icon for the German East but little did the motorcycling world know he was contemplating a change.

Honda unveiled the RC144 125 for 1961 and fielded a formidable line up with Luigi Taveri, Jim Redman and Kuninitsu Takahashi competing alongside Phillis. But an extensive off-season in the workshop allowed Kaaden to extract more horsepower from their little machine and by the time the series arrived in Barcelona for the first round of the World Championship the MZ was the fastest 125 around.

Phillis won the first round, taking Honda's first Grand Prix win around the twists of Montjuc Park but Degner countered at Hockenheim, the Sachsenring and Monza where his MZ's top speed gave him the advantage. After the Swedish GP the pair knew the title would be decided at the final round in Buenos Aires, with Degner knowing he needed only to finish second to clinch the crown. Incredibly he chose this moment to defect, leaving MZ and the GDR for the fortune Suzuki had offered for his knowledge of the two-stroke formula.

He planned on riding an EMC in Argentina but when it didn't arrive on time Phillis dutifully won the race and the title by two points while Degner watched from the stands. Conspiracy theories abounded in a tale that had all the hallmarks of a Hollywood script.

The controversy surrounding Degner and MZ shouldn't take anything away from Phillis, whose joy was sadly short lived. Along with the 125 title, he finished just behind Hailwood in the 250 series in '61, proving himself to be one of the top riders in the world. Tragically he succumbed to injuries sustained in a crash while chasing down Gary Hocking and Hailwood in the Junior 350 race on the Isle of Man.

Phillis' life was one that was cut short but he will always be remembered in the record books as Honda's first grand prix winner.

Johnny Cecotto - 1975 350cc World Championship
Few riders have exploded onto the world scene as Johnny Cecotto did in 1975. If Marquez's debut in Qatar in 2013 was spectacular it was a mere breeze compared to the Venezuelan who took the Continental circus by storm. He remains the only rider to win two races at his first grand prix meeting.

Hailing from Caracas, Cecotto was the son of an Italian family whose father occasionally raced bikes. He decided to follow the two-wheel route as it allowed him to race at an earlier age and having won everything in South America he travelled to the Daytona 200 in 1975 at the age of 18 before his first year competing in grand prix.

Despite a costly pit stop in America that put him at the back of the field he rode through the field to take third. Just weeks later he beat Agostini amongst others to win both the 250 and 350cc events at the first round of the World Championship in France.

The racing world was stunned and the new arrival caused many an experienced campaigner to question their own credentials. In Jon Ekerold's autobiography The Privateer he openly admits to being thrown into a state of deep depression upon hearing of the results from Paul Ricard. And he wasn't the only one.

Here was a man with good looks, factory backing and outright, natural speed in abundance. The question was could he maintain it throughout the course of a season? The answer was simple. The 350 Championship was contested over eight races and Cecotto's four victories were enough to crown him Champion with a race to spare.

Results were one thing but how Johnny was achieving them was another. His style on the bike had to be seen to be believed. After seeing the Venezuelan through the terrifying sixth gear left hand Tamburello corner at the Imola 200 Ekerold again remarked, "He was the only one not rolling off and he had the big Yamaha squirming all over the place. But what struck me more than anything else was how smooth and effortless he made it all look."

Like his friend and future rival Barry Sheene, he was fond of the trappings that came with being a top class rider travelling around Europe, a trait that some used to question his commitment in later years.

After such a blistering debut the scene was set for an era of Venezuelan domination. Yet despite a relatively successful time in the 500 class Cecotto never quite hit the heights of his debut season. Anyone that witnessed it won't forget it in a hurry.

Kenny Roberts - 1978 500cc World Championship
Of all the things Barry Sheene said there must be one that he regretted more than most. Having just won his second World Championship he was asked by a journalist about potential contenders that could displace him in '78. The name Kenny Roberts came up.

"Put Roberts and Cecotto on equal bikes and Cecotto will beat him every time," he said.

Little did he know at the time his answer would sting Roberts into organising a full-blown tilt at the 500 crown. The then two-time AMA Champion had been considering how he could overcome Harley Davidson in a bid to win a third national crown but when Yamaha announced they were pulling out of dirt track racing Kenny's only alternative was to travel to Europe.

He brought the calm mind of former 250 World Champion and mentor Kel Carruthers with him. The pair went to Europe with just one 500, a 250 and a 750, with just Nobby Clark and Trevor Tilbury working on them too (compared to the seven technicians official factory rider Cecotto boasted). Although the Californian had backing from American Yamaha and Goodyear tyres Roberts had just one bike at his disposal until the penultimate round at Silverstone.

Then there was the issue of learning the tracks. In an article he wrote for Motorcyclist Online Roberts explained his predicament showing up at tracks for the first time on Thursday afternoons. "Usually, all I had was 30 minutes to figure it out. And not just the track, everything - the right lines, bike setup and tyre selection." Quite a task.

Roberts underlined his credentials by lapping the entire field at the Daytona 200, then finishing six of the first seven races either first or second. His consistency, where he finished off the podium on just three occasions, meant he went to the final round in Germany needing to finish one place behind Sheene to claim the crown.

He duly finished third around the daunting 14 mile N?rburgring behind Ferrari and Cecotto to become the first American to win the premier class and the last rider to have won the premier-class in his rookie year.

Loris Capirossi - 1990 125cc World Championship
Even after accumulating 328 Grand Prix starts during a 22-year career there is one moment that Loris Capirossi cherishes more than any other: Winning the 1990 125 series at the season finale at Phillip Island. After joining the World Championship just seven months before as a number two rider, it's easy to see why.

The ever-smiling Italian joined two-time Champion Fausto Gresini in the Pileri Honda squad for the 1990 season, his family having mortgaged their house to fund his racing programme in the years before. He didn't take long to make an impact, finishing on the podium in only his third race. It proved to be a pivotal weekend as the inexperienced Capirossi was handed Gresini's factory machine after he had ruled himself out of the race in practice. After his podium performance a factory bike arrived from Honda to use for the remainder of the campaign.

Capirossi took two wins and five rostrums putting him within seven points of Stefan Prein as the paddock moved out East. Hans Spaan sat two behind Loris but neither he nor Prein could have envisioned the partisan support the Italian would receive from his countrymen. Prein went out early on and as Capirossi escaped at the front Spaan was repeatedly blocked and slowed by the merry band of Italians.

As Spaan attempted to give chase he found Romboni, Gresini and Casanova in his way and eventually aimed a right fist in Gresini's direction as his frustration boiled over. The Italian tactics worked and Capirossi held on to win, entering the record books as the youngest ever World Champion at just 17 years and 165 days. Even with 21 years of Grand Prix racing ahead of him he would never experience another day like it.

Dani Pedrosa - 2004 250cc World Championship
There was a moment during Dani Pedrosa's slow down lap at Phillip Island that seemed fitting and summed up his character. With the Spanish flag held aloft and victory t-shirt adorned, the newly crowned 250 World Champion blew a kiss towards the trackside barrier as he descended Lukey Heights. It was a far cry from his Australian experience twelve months before.

Just five days after Pedrosa clinched his 125 title in 2003 he crashed heavily into that same barrier a handful of laps into free practice, breaking both his ankles and all but ruining his off-season. Pedrosa was unable to walk for several months, even with the aid of crutches. He completed just two tests on the 250 before arriving in South Africa for the season opener.

Riding without the pressure to perform he qualified fourth and after a modest start found himself behind the leader de Puniet going into the final corner. He didn't hold back and won, taking Alan Carter's record as the youngest ever 250 winner in the process.

The relief and surprise of winning the first race was palpable. The Catalan later told Motociclismo "That was like an alarm clock for the rest of the year. In the team we decided if we could [win the first race] we would have to do so for the rest of the season."

There was no question his diminutive frame, not overly dissimilar from Honda's previous 250 Champion Daijiro Kato, was ideal suited to the machine and buoyed by his showing in Welkom, Pedrosa proved irresistible. He stormed to seven victories, the coolness in which he dealt with his rivals on the track belying all of his 18 years. It was of no surprise to learn that many were already comparing him to Eddie Lawson.

Although Lorenzo, Stoner and Dovizioso took another year to graduate to the quarter litre series, Pedrosa still faced stiff competition from Sebas Porto, Toni Elias and Randy de Puniet. His credentials have often been questioned since moving to the MotoGP class but Pedrosa's exploits on a 250 were enough to render him one of the class' finest.