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Racing brothers: Reaching the top

Hayden, Espargaro, Laverty, Lowes and Marquez talk brotherly competition.
Marc and Alex Marquez made history in Catalunya by becoming the first brothers to win Motorcycle Grand Prix races on the same day - then repeated the feat next time at Assen!

The Marquez brothers are far from alone, with the likes of Aleix and Pol Espargaro (pictured), Alex and Sam Lowes as well as the Hayden and Laverty brothers proving that present two-wheel motorsport has plenty of fast families.

Talk to any of those riders and they are adamant that the benefits of having at least one racing brother are significant.

The gains include being able to brainstorm what's happening on the bike, through to support and guidance during tough times and injuries. Another advantage is that the success of one brother helps boost the profile of the other.

For 2006 MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden, it all begins with the competition generated by racing each other from an early age.

"Growing up and riding together on dirt bikes in the back yard is great competition," said Hayden. "I liked it because I had one brother who's a little bit older that I was chasing on a bigger bike and I had another brother following me that I wanted to make sure didn't pass!"

Hayden and his brothers all raced when he was younger with his father Earl travelling the US with his racing offspring to compete in dirt track races.

Of the Hayden clan Nicky, Roger Lee and Tommy have all raced in AMA Superbikes with Roger Lee joining Nicky on the MotoGP grid twice at Laguna Seca. With such experience on hand Nicky admitted that it's important to be able to call on them when times get hard:

"There's times where you have an injury and between the three of us one of us has probably experienced it. It's nice to get advice from a brother because you can understand each other and it's a great advantage. You see it in other sports where there's a lot of brothers."

While the Marquez brothers stole the limelight in Montmelo, Aleix and Pol Espargaro grew up just minutes from the track in Granollers.

The Espargaros are only separated by two years but their careers have been very different, with younger brother Pol having enjoyed factory machinery in 125GP and then a championship winning Moto2 career before moving to MotoGP as a Factory class Yamaha rider.

Aleix meanwhile had to graft for his chance on the Forward Yamaha, following years on less uncompetitive machinery. Like Hayden, Aleix admitted that having a brother who has experienced the similar problems can be the biggest advantage for racing siblings.

"It's nice to see Pol on the track and riding, it's different to other riders," commented Aleix. "When everything is good, like this year, we can sometimes not see each other for a couple of days but if we have a problem then we will meet and talk about it. It's really good to relax and work out the problem."

Until this year, Pol would have Aleix in his pit garage during practice and qualifying, quickly able to point out areas to improve and focus on for the next lap.

Racing together in MotoGP now makes that impossible but riding similar bikes does allows them to compare their data, along with the other Yamaha riders, and to learn from the other:

"In the middle of qualifying, for example, he was with me and he would tell me what I am doing wrong and that I am losing time in T2 or T3," said Pol. "Right now we have the data but not as much time to speak about it so I have to learn by myself where I am losing time. After practice I see what I am doing wrong but not immediately during practice. So in that respect it was good to be with my brother but now I have to beat him!”

For younger brothers like Pol another key advantage is that they receive 'hand me downs' from their older brothers as they progress through the ranks.

"I was always so happy to be racing with my brother because I could always take my brothers bike! My father would buy my brother a bike and I would take his old bike. It made my life easier because my brother would say that the bike needs to be ridden in a certain way and it was easier [for me]."

Like the Hayden brothers, the Laverty family features a trio of racing brothers with Michael in MotoGP, Eugene in WSBK and John having won the Privateers Cup in BSB. The brothers all cut their teeth in schoolboy motocross and the gap from oldest to youngest - Michael to Eugene - five years, Michael making the initial move to racing in the UK and paving for the way for his brothers.

Eugene, who raced in 250cc grand prix for two years before excelling in the World Supersport and Superbike championships, admits that having Michael and John race before him was a major boost early in his career.

"The biggest advantage of them racing was that they opened doors for me," commented Eugene. "It happens in racing where people realise that if that guy is fast then maybe these other guys are fast too. You just have to look at BSB and the influx that came here to WSBK, where one guy came and was fast so then you looked at who used to battle with him.

“That happens in racing and it was helpful for me coming through because John and Michael had to work harder and ride pieces of shit and not really knowing the way. Once people realised that they could ride, they thought that maybe they could give their little brother a chance so I got some doors opened for me a lot easier than they did."

John, who now acts as an assistant and observer for Eugene, echoed those thoughts in terms of how his career progressed.

"We did schoolboy motocross together and I always thought that was a good thing to do because it gets you used to doing three races a day," said John. "Three starts becomes your normal train of thought and it becomes simple once you've got used to the basics. That was a big thing for us and then we progressed from motocross into circuit racing.

“Michael was the first to start in '98, then myself and then Eugene. I suppose that having brothers to pave the way makes it easier for you, maybe that's where Eugene being younger has benefited a lot. He's seen us do things right and do things wrong and learned from that."

For John's current role as a trackside spotter the advantages are similar to what the Espargaros gain at grand prix level; complete trust that there is no ulterior motive in what is being said.

Eugene explained that John provides an added depth to debriefs and uses his feedback in addition to the telemetry:

"It's a big advantage because data can be very misleading in bike racing," said Eugene. "In car racing it's pretty much a sure thing because the driver is in a fixed position whereas often I have to speak with the engineers and they say that they can't see the problem that I'm explaining, but that's because I've reacted and moved by position to compensate for the problem. That usually happens because the rider will move around and compensate, so having someone out on trackside that sees it in real time is a benefit."

For the Michael Laverty, opening doors for his younger brothers is something that he clearly takes pride in. The PBM rider had a winding road to MotoGP with British championship racing mixed with a year in the AMA before finally getting his grand prix break last year.

"We're a close family, my brothers are my best friends, and we have each other's best interests at heart," commented Michael. "We grew up together looking out for each other and I'm glad that we stayed true to that. Eugene's been very successful but there's no-one happier than me to see that success. It's been good growing up together and it's nice to see his success. I think that we're all similar talent wise, there's some differences between us, so it's nice to see the success that Eugene has had with factory teams and you can think that if I had that shot I could do the same because I know our similarities.

"It's been good for sure and it's helped us for sure. I think that Eugene would say the same and that he got opportunities younger than us, probably because of the ground work that I did. He's younger than us but that meant that he was able to learn from our mistakes and what took me five years he could do in one year. He was always at the track even before he went circuit racing and could learn from me so that meant that he could shortcut some of the work. I was probably a benefit to him in that way and it meant that he could jump into it a lot faster."

Eugene's Crescent Suzuki WSBK team-mate is Alex Lowes, the reigning British Superbike champion and twin brother of World Supersport champion Sam.

The Lowes brothers are known for their intense rivalry and ability to spur each other on. For Alex the key was that both were always competing with each other, whether it training or racing. This forced both brothers to dig deep in long sessions in the gym or when racing each other.

"I think that the single biggest thing is that anything that I've done in my life I've always had someone to be against," said Alex. "If you go training on your own and you run five kilometres you're always going to be faster if someone is close to you. We're always at a pretty similar level in everything so we push each other a lot without really knowing it. It's helped a lot with racing as well because you've got someone that you trust and relate to so well that when they've got those experiences that you can learn from them so that definitely helps."

Last year was an interesting season for the Lowes brothers with both competing for their respective championship honours and the ability to lean on other and learn from the other's experience was something that current Moto2 racer Sam felt provided a key advantage for them both.

"Racing is a funny thing," commented Sam. "Until you've been put in certain positions, like both of us fighting for the championship last year, it brought us closer together because we could talk about how we'd think, 'Tomorrow I can't make a mistake, I can't crash.' I had it at Magny-Cours and I called him and having the same emotions, whether it's twins or friends, it brings people closer together. We're very close anyway and he's my best mate as well as my brother."

While the Lowes brothers were able to celebrate BSB and WSS title success last season, the Marquez family could clinch an even more unique double in 2014: Reigning MotoGP champion Marc remains unbeaten after eight races, with Alex now just seven points from the Moto3 title lead.

“Of course I'm really happy for my brother,” said Marc after Saturday's Assen win. “It looks like when some riders win for the first time in the small categories it changes their mind and now he is so strong, so we need to keep pushing. My motivation and his motivation is higher every time and that makes everything easier.”



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Aleix and Pol Espargaro, French MotoGP 2014
Rossi, Malaysian MotoGP
Iannone, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Pol Espargaro, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Hernandez, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Aleix Espargaro, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Marquez, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Crutchlow, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Crutchlow, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Smith, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Aoyama, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Rossi, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Aleix Espargaro, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Lorenzo, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Dovizioso, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Pedrosa, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Smith, Malaysian MotoGP 2014
Iannone, Malaysian MotoGP 2014

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PorkPie

July 02, 2014 12:24 AM

ProfessorX: Aleix Espargaro is faster than Marquez who is slower than Pol
I don't know what your professorial chair is in my friend but I'm certain it isn't bike racing! Given that Marc beat Pol to the moto2 title (by far), despite Pol being older and more experienced, and of course having never lifted the 125 title, how do you believe that he's better than Marc? Even the year after when he won he scored less points than Marc by a mile in his title winning year. By what measure better, as it isn't race wins, championships or points is it? And HOW do you figure that Aleix better than Marc? By the same logic, he is also better than Dani then. New world order! NB maybe Aleix is better than Pol, but I very much doubt it. In other news, great article. And I really do wonder if Marc and Alex could win the title in the same year. It COULD happen! If they do that might just be the one record they set that will never be beaten.

1050cc

July 01, 2014 9:18 PM

ProfessorX: Aleix Espargaro is faster than Marquez who is slower than Pol but faster than Alex. Thats your running order. Don't forget to add Repsol slush fund to both Marquez brothers for 10,000 bonus points of racing goodness.
By gum lad you don't half spout out constant rubbish. Is it a wind up are do you really believe what you post? Either way... snooor!



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