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GP Week : Issue 200
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The progress of sport is measured variously: high-jumpers keep going higher, sprinters keep going faster. so do motorbikes, for obvious technical reasons. But so also do the athletes that ride them. Every so often, one of them takes a great leap forward. Marc Marquez is one such, and how. His superiority in his first premier-class year was striking; in his second it is already flabbergasting. It is as much a privilege for fans to share in this as it is dispiriting for his rivals. Maybe, just two races in, it’s a bit early to say this: but the numbers tell a different story. Marquez beat them all in Qatar, first time back on a bike after breaking his leg six weeks earlier. On the return to COTA, scene of his historic first win last year, he took them all apart. Throughout practice he was seldom less than a second faster than the next best, right up until qualifying. In the race, the only rider on a hard tyre, he proved beyond doubt that only one person was capable of stopping him from winning. Himself. He nearly succeeded, with a classic “defeat from the jaws of victory” moment on the last corner, thanks to a lapse in concentration. He appeared to have lost it under braking, but somehow managed to gather up the Repsol Honda again to cruise to his second straight win. That in itself was classic Marquez. Many times we have seen him recover from what, to any other rider, would have been a crash. Nobody is quite sure how he does it. In the same way, nobody is quite sure how he manages to go so much faster than everybody else. Apart from sheer talent. Former rider Ben Spies commented on his ability to enter corners with the back wheel in the air and out of line without losing composure or momentum. “I can see what he’s doing,” he told Britain’s MCN. “But I don’t know how he does it.” Team-mate Dani Pedrosa seems resigned and accepting. His time in the sun is over. As for Jorge Lorenzo, one can only speculate to what extent Marquez has unsettled him, but the prima facie evidence is undeniable. Usually he is Mr Perfect, operating at the highest level without very little drama. At the first two races of 2014 however he has made errors that even he acknowledged were amateurish. The jump-start at Austin (by more than two seconds!) was “the worst mistake in my career.” Marquez’s exploits at the tender age of 21 put him on course for yet another record. Unless he fails to tie up the title before the last race of the year at Valencia in November, he will become also the second-youngest champion, moving Freddie Spencer down another notch. Only one other rider in history has achieved so much success so quickly: Kenny Roberts – who won the title at THE PREcARIOUS PATH TO GREATNESS OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHAEL SCOTT his first attempt in 1978, and for the next two years straight. He was a genuine rookie, whereas Marquez has GP experience (and championships) in Moto2 and 125. Marquez’s risky style calls to mind another rider who might have achieved the same – but Finn Jarno Saarinen was killed in a crash at Monza in the fourth round, having won two of his first three 500 races., and all three 250 races. He was the innocent victim of a first-lap crash in the 250 race. This is not to draw some ghoulish parallel. Heaven forbid. But just a reminder that the path to grand prix greatness can be perilous. No primroses. It will be a comfort, however, when Marquez learns to ride at something less than maximum risk. He could take a leaf out of an earlier greatest- ever candidate, Mike Hailwood, whose plan was always “to win the race at the slowest possible speed.”