MotoGP » Marc Marquez


Marc Marquez

Career

A world champion in 125 and the Moto2 class, Marc Marquez literally came, saw and conquered during his debut season in MotoGP.

While few doubted that Marquez was always destined to be a potential champion at MotoGP level, few expected him to have flattened the learning curve so comprehensively.

The 20-year-old came out with all guns blazing - a podium on his Qatar debut followed by victory from pole in only his second race. Rather than the predicted rookie errors, Marquez continued to rack up podium-after-podium, with the exception of a late slip at Mugello.

When chief championship rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa suffered mid-season shoulder injuries, Marquez inflicted the maximum title damage with four successive wins. By the time Lorenzo and Pedrosa were back to full strength, the hard-riding Marquez had already matured into a rounded title challenger.

While Lorenzo threw everything at Marquez on and off track during the final events, not even disqualification in Australia - or the earlier controversy caused by the Aragon incident with team-mate Pedrosa - could stop Marquez becoming MotoGP’s youngest champion and the first rookie winner since 1978.

Marquez's 2014 preparations suffered a setback with a broken leg in a dirt track training accident, causing him to miss two of the three pre-season tests, handing his rivals some hope...

It wasn't to last: Marquez began the season with a perfect run of ten straight wins to shatter any title opposition. The young Spaniard also comfortably beat his fellow RC213V riders, ending the year with a record 13 wins compared with just one victory for team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who was fourth in the standings.

Marquez won in the dry, in the wet (Assen), by leading every lap (Austin, Jerez), by fighting back from tenth (Le Mans) and by triumphing in close last-lap battles (Losail, Mugello and Catalunya). However Marquez also threw away two further wins when he fell while leading at Aragon and Phillip Island. Another race mistake occurred early at Misano, when Marquez lowsided while chasing leader Valentino Rossi.

But that was nothing compared with what 2015 had in store for the Honda rider who would endure less wins, podiums, poles, fastest laps and points than either of his previous seasons and be left without a world title for the first time since 2011.

A first corner mistake at the Qatar season opener would later be followed by a string of DNFs as Marquez battled rear wheel slides on corner entry, plus aggressive power delivery on corner exit with the latest RC213V. Engine character was to blame but the ban on in-season development meant Marquez and Honda spent the rest of the year trying to indirectly fix the issues. A switch to his 2014 chassis at Assen proved a notable turning point, although the race will be remembered for the last turn clash with Rossi.

The Dutch TT was the second of three occasions the pair would collide this season and the only time Marquez emerged on two wheels, although he clearly felt hard done by when Rossi kept the win after cutting the track. The first incident had been in Argentina, while the third would be the infamous Sepang encounter.

But there were also some notable highs, Marquez proving his raw speed with five race wins, the last and most dramatic coming at Phillip Island when he snatched victory from Jorge Lorenzo with just a few corners to go.

Despite that pass, a few days later Rossi accused Marquez of playing with his race pace to try and assist Lorenzo, plus other verbal jabs. That set the scene for their Malaysian showdown, which left Marquez on the ground and Rossi starting last in Valencia.

Marquez flatly denies that he conspired against Rossi in the closing rounds of the season, but the uproar left the young Spaniard at the centre of a whirlwind throughout the winter and still on the receiving end of boos when the 2016 season got underway.

Marquez captured his third MotoGP title in 2016 as he more than compensated for Honda's early season technical struggles with a new 'settle for a podium' strategy. It proved devastatingly effective in a season that saw a record number of falls, as riders and engineers found the limits of the unfamiliar Michelin tyres and new single ECU. That's not to say Marquez wasn't pushing. He had to. The Spaniard felt the aggressive Honda was only the fourth best bike for acceleration and had to claw back the lost time - and more - in braking.

“For me, if we make a ranking in acceleration it would be: Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda," Marquez said at Le Mans in May. “The problem is that we are losing a lot. But if we improve the acceleration we have one of the best bikes. It’s hard because on the straight time is ‘free’. It is really difficult for your mentality when you see you cannot follow the others. "You need to recover on the brake points and riding like that for 28 laps it is easy to make a mistake."

The Spaniard fell 17 times during the season (compared with 13 in 2016), but usually found the limit in practice - resulting in some extraordinary saves - and went into the mid-season break as the only rider to score in every race. Indeed, Marquez didn’t suffer a DNF until after the world championship was decided in his favour, with three rounds still to go. The lack of early season mistakes (Marquez fell in France, but remounted) is all the more remarkable given the huge gap between his results and those of the other Honda riders.

The 23-year-old finished on the podium in seven of the opening nine rounds, including three wins. During that same period, the four other Honda riders combined claimed a total of four podiums, with one win. While the RC213V became a more competitive package in the second half of the season, producing dry victories for Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow, the final championship standings still ended with Marquez as the only Honda rider in the top five. The #93's five victories were also more than any other rider this season.

Now equal with Jorge Lorenzo for premier-class titles, Marquez will be fighting to become Spain's first four-time MotoGP champion in 2017, with Honda running a more rider-friendly 'big bang' style engine.

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