Exclusive: Livio Suppo’s key difference between Marc Marquez and Casey Stoner

Livio Suppo reflects on life alongside multiple MotoGP champions Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez, plus the Spaniard’s shock switch from Honda to Gresini Ducati for 2024.

Stoner with Livio Suppo
Stoner with Livio Suppo

As a MotoGP team manager, Livio Suppo worked with two of the biggest talents the sport has seen: Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez.

The pair would probably have been team-mates at Repsol Honda in 2013 had the Australian not retired at the age of just 27.

Suppo had helped oversee Stoner’s historic 2007 MotoGP title for Ducati. The pair were then reunited at Repsol Honda in 2011, when Stoner took his second world crown.

But Stoner stunned the paddock in May of the following year by announcing he would retire at the end of the season.

Rising star Marc Marquez, en route to the Moto2 title and destined for MotoGP with HRC, thus took over the #27’s place alongside Dani Pedrosa rather than replacing his fellow Spaniard.

Marquez won the MotoGP title in his debut 2013 season and was a four-time premier-class champion by the time Suppo stepped down from Repsol Honda at the end of 2017.

During an exclusive interview with Crash.net, Suppo was asked to describe how Stoner and Marquez were similar to work with and in what ways they were different.

“Very similar in terms of speed and talent, totally different in terms of character,” Suppo replied.

“The capability of Marc to be always smiling and having a good relationship with people around him was something special. I don't think there was one day that Marc didn’t love [being a MotoGP rider]. He was always positive.

“Casey is a more complicated character, and that probably is the real reason why he decided to quit so early, because he was only 27.

“Clearly, if racing was such a demanding activity for him, in terms of mental stress and not being happy with what he was doing, I totally understand his choice.

“Of course, it was a pity because his talent was unbelievable and it would have been great to see Marc and Casey together on track, something that we never saw.”

Suppo confirmed the intention had been to place Marquez alongside Stoner for 2013, “But I think we cannot complain because the [Repsol Honda] team with Dani and Marc was anyway very strong for a few years.”

Livio Suppo and Marc Marquez
Livio Suppo and Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez leaving Honda? “I was one of the guys saying ‘impossible!’”

Marquez had won six MotoGP titles by the end of 2019, despite declining results for the other RC213V riders.

Honda’s success then came to an abrupt halt when the Spaniard broke his arm at Jerez 2020, triggering several years of medical complications.

The technical deficit to the European factories grew further during Marquez’s absence and, after winning just three races in four seasons, Marquez asked to be released from the final year of his HRC contract.

The #93 will join younger brother Alex on a year-old satellite Ducati at Gresini this season.

“I was one of the guys saying ‘impossible!’” admitted Suppo

“I was thinking maybe [the rumours of leaving Honda] were just a way to put more pressure on HRC to do more.

“Or a way to put pressure on the other manufacturers to get more concessions.

“But at the end, they [Honda] got concessions, and they lost Marc! So I was totally wrong!

“Clearly for Marc to arrive at a point in which you have to close [break] the contract with a company that has been your life for sure won't have been easy.

“Especially because, on top of this, he had to leave basically all his crew in HRC, and we all know how strong the relationship is between Marc, Santi [Hernandez, crew chief] and all the other guys.

Marc Marquez crash, Sachsenring 2023
Marc Marquez crash, Sachsenring 2023

“I think a key point in Marc’s decision was Sachsenring last year. In that track he had been able to win with an arm that was still not 100% but last year he was trying very hard and got only a lot of crashes.

“So probably at that point maybe he said, ‘if I go ahead like this, I will destroy myself. And anyway, there's no chance I can win. So I need to do something, immediately.’”

Marc Marquez, Gresini Ducati
Marc Marquez, Gresini Ducati

Marquez will “be fast, no doubt” on the Ducati

Betting sites are already listing Marquez as favourite for the 2024 MotoGP title, despite only having had a single day of testing on the Desmosedici at Valencia last November.

“I'm 100% sure he will be fast, no doubt. But it's also true that he hasn’t won a race for a couple of years. And for sure, all the other Ducati riders know the Ducati much better than him,” Suppo said of Marquez’s chances.

“I don't think the fact that the bike is one-year old will be a big problem. I see more the problem of [needing to know] much better the bike and the Ducati system.

“Having said that, the talent of Marc is clear!

“It’s true that he is not anymore the one of a few years ago. But in terms of determination and speed - even in the last two years when he was struggling a lot, if you compare his performances with the other Honda riders, it seems to me that he’s still very strong.”

Valentino Rossi with mural, Valencia
Valentino Rossi with mural, Valencia

“There will never be another Valentino”

Having experienced first-hand the eras of Stoner and Marquez, who both became embroiled in intense competition with the biggest MotoGP icon of them all, Valentino Rossi, does the sport miss the big rivalries of the past?

“I think somehow, yes,” Suppo said. “Like it or not the last 20 or more years of MotoGP has been influenced a lot by the personality of Valentino.

“Of course, Valentino is impossible to replace. There will never be another Valentino. It’s like in Skiing with Alberto Tomba in Italy. We have good skiers but Alberto Tomba was something special.

“At the moment, as Italians, we have several strong riders. First of all, of course, Pecco, who won the last two titles. We also had Dovi, now we have Bezzecchi, we have Bastianini…

“We have maybe too many! Same as for the Spanish.  If I'm not wrong, this season out of a grid of 22 riders there will be 16 between Italian and Spanish.

“This is probably one of the biggest problems of MotoGP, to be able to be more international.”

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