Marc Marquez has joined Valentino Rossi and Giacomo Agostini in producing a truly dominant era in MotoGP with six premier class world titles in the space of seven years, his only miss coming in the controversial 2015 season, and with no end in sight to the Spaniard’s reign it’s time to assess where his biggest challenges in 2020 are going to come from.

With relatively stable MotoGP technical rules and regulations going into this year, analysing Marquez’s threats before a wheel has even turned shows the trends of recent seasons should not drastically change, meaning unless Honda makes colossal mistakes with its updated RC213V it is safe to assume Marquez will remain at the sharp end of the grid.

But Marquez has plenty of reasons to keep his guard up.

Multiple rivals to be wary of

Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso are plotting to stop Marquez’s ongoing domination and with the Italian rider finishing runner-up for the past three consecutive seasons he will once again be lined up as the main danger to Marquez’s crown.

As we are so far away from the crunch moments in the 2020 MotoGP season, multiple names cannot be ruled out but Dovizioso will remain odds-on as Marquez’s biggest rival with the Italian desperate for Ducati to regain its top speed advantage following Honda’s significant improvements over the last 12 months.

Dovizioso has a renewed mindset for the upcoming campaign, demonstrated in his new helmet design and ‘Undaunted’ motif, but intentions count for little if they aren’t followed through by the Italian. Being undaunted is one thing, putting a run of wins together at circuits with varying layouts is an entirely different proposition.

Following on 2019’s trends, Yamaha’s gradual improvements have provided green shoots for the Iwata factory with Rossi, Maverick Vinales plus Fabio Quartararo all fancied as likely title fighters.

Yamaha’s rapid-fire rider announcements this week, culminating in signing Jorge Lorenzo as test rider, has provided proof it has taken all possible measures to halt Marquez and Honda - short of the almost-impossible scenario of signing the Spanish rider himself.

The addition of Marquez’s former team-mate Lorenzo as Yamaha’s new test rider is an intriguing prospect. While the five-time world champion took time before finding a winning combination with Ducati, and never truly gelling with the Honda, he has fresh memories of Yamaha’s biggest rivals.

He can also provide another reference to Yamaha’s previous imperious efforts back in 2015 when he won its most recent world title.

A third major manufacturer threat in Suzuki also cannot be ruled out. Alex Rins, who beat Marquez in a fair fight at the British round last season, needs to find greater consistency to match his winning performances from the Circuit of the Americas and Silverstone.

Suzuki is already confident of greater top speed and power from its 2020-spec engine and how that combines with its new chassis and Michelin’s tyres will be key to the Hamamatsu team’s fortunes.

Marquez won’t change a winning formula

What has cemented Marquez’s recent domination has been his unwavering consistency across a variety of circuits; striking for victory when in reach and being wise enough to settle for the next best thing without taking unnecessary gambles.

With an RC213V tailormade to his requests plus the methodical and calming influence of crew chief Santi Hernandez, Marquez has the perfect bubble and support network to excel.

It’s the reason why Marquez’s produced a record-breaking season in 2019: 19 races, 12 wins and six second places with just the single DNF meaning the all-time points record was smashed.

Marquez’s consistency and streetwise fighting was a line he repeated to the press on numerous occasions during his charge to the title – something he refused to believe he had wrapped up as his domination grew. The Spaniard only begrudgingly accepted he had effectively wrapped up the MotoGP world title after his controlling victory at Aragon, before officially confirming it at the next race in Thailand.

A lack of consistency and overcommitting were key elements to his downfall in his only failure in capturing the MotoGP world title since stepping up to the premier class in 2013. Five crashes (including the infamous Rossi clash at Sepang) denied Marquez that front-running constancy to keep pace with both Rossi and eventual champion Lorenzo.

Maintaining that mentality is much easier when you’ve got a controlling points lead in the standings, which he didn’t have in 2015, and has avoided being the chaser since the early stages of 2017.

But if he has a slow start to 2020 and one of his rivals can capitalise, the old Marquez will be clawing to get back out. There are still glimpses of it, most recently in his qualifying psych outs against Rossi at Misano and Quartararo at Sepang last year. Exposing and exploiting that mental flaw in Marquez’s armoury could prove pivotal.

Shouldering an injury

While Marquez is trying to win the battle within himself to stop over-fighting, the Spaniard also faces a familiar race for full fitness in time for the start of the season. Following a serious right shoulder operation, Marquez’s winter has been primarily focusing on rehabilitation and recovery to get his shoulder back into shape.

It was the exact same challenge he faced during last year’s pre-season albeit on the opposite shoulder, but this time around his recovery has been slower. The 26-year-old only got back on two wheels a week before the Sepang pre-season test.

Marquez will know better than anyone what it takes to be fit and also how it feels to go through the rehabilitation from an invasive shoulder operation – but it won’t change the challenge in front of him with the 2020 opening round in Qatar only five weeks away.

Brotherly distraction

The elder Marquez brother has been quick to deny it’ll make any difference to his mentality and focus for 2020, but having sibling Alex Marquez join him at Repsol Honda will make for a unique and intriguing dynamic.

It is the first time in premier class history a pair of brothers have shared a team as the reigning Moto2 world champion becomes the dramatic 11th-hour replacement for Lorenzo.

Having shared a mutual admiration and rivalry with his previous team-mates, Marc will certainly gain a willing ally in his rookie brother, but concerns have already grown the partnership could come as an unnecessary distraction. The older brother has been quick to dismiss these fears and says an extra sense of professionalism will be added into a naturally personal relationship.

But only time will tell if two Marquez is better than one.

 

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