Marquez’s brilliance gives Honda its 16th riders’ title, three decades after its first premier-class crown won by Freddie Spencer in 1983.
The 20-year-old’s MotoGP title success is the crowning achievement of what is already a stellar career. After winning the 2010 125 World Championship and the 2012 Moto2 world title, the super-talented youngster graduated to MotoGP at the start of this year, looking to serve his apprenticeship in the world’s fastest, toughest motorcycle racing series.
However, Marquez never for a moment looked like a rookie. The Spanish prodigy scored a podium finish first time out at Qatar in April, then two weeks later dominated the Grand Prix of the Americas in Texas, where he became the youngest-ever rider to start a premier-class race from pole position and the youngest to take victory in a category that’s now dominated by awesome 250 horsepower motorcycles that reach 345km/h (215mph).
Marquez took both those records from another Honda hero, American genius Spencer, who had held the youngest pole record since the 1982 Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama, Spain, and the youngest winner record since the Belgium GP at Spa a few months later.
Spencer, undoubtedly one of the greatest bike racers of all time, is in awe of the young Spaniard, just like everyone else. “It’s exciting to see young riders come along and make an impact!” says the man who won three World Championships in the 1980s and was the youngest premier-class champ until Sunday. “I like the excitement he brings with his riding style and personality.”
Humble and highly intelligent, Marquez kept his feet firmly on the ground despite making history. “You can beat a record,” he said in Texas. “But in future, maybe another rider will win a race when they are younger than me.”
Spencer is right about Marquez’s riding style, which has taken MotoGP to a whole new level. His two years in the Moto2 class taught him how to get the absolute maximum out of a motorcycle and how to maintain the machine on the every brink of control. Now he has his RC213V dancing around beneath him, rear wheel sometimes in the air as he tips into corners, then burning dark arcs of rubber on the tarmac as he opens the throttle. But he isn’t merely stunningly fast and extremely brave; he also has the mind of a master tactician.
His career statistics speak for themselves. He has ridden 18 MotoGP races, taking podiums in 16, including six wins, plus nine pole positions and 11 fastest laps. In Moto2 he won 16 races from 32 starts – an amazing 50 per cent success rate – plus a further nine podiums and 14 pole positions. When he was a Grand Prix beginner in the 125 category he took ten wins and 14 poles from 42 starts.
There is no doubt that Marquez’s 2013 Repsol Honda RC213V perfectly suits his aggressive riding style, allowing him to attack corner apexes with a speed and commitment that few others can match. The youngster quickly developed a superb relationship with Honda Racing Corporation staff, who now know exactly what he needs to produce lightning-quick speed and race-winning consistency.
His 1000cc Honda R213CV is the latest development of Honda’s MotoGP machines that have scored an amazing run of successes since the class switched to four-strokes in 2002. The 990cc RC211V won the 2002, 2003 and 2006 World Championships, the 800cc RC212V won the 2011 title and the RC213V has now secured the 2013 crown. All these machines have the Honda hallmarks of superbly
rider-friendly performance and remarkable reliability. They are also rolling laboratories for the development of high-tech electronic performance and safety systems, the major R&D area in modern-day motorcycle racing.
Following Marquez’s maiden MotoGP victory in Texas, his season continued with further astonishing results. He battled for the lead and finished on the podium in four of the next five races, suffering his first DNF at June’s Italian Grand Prix where he crashed out while holding second place.
The mark of true greatness in any sport is how a player responds to hard times and Marquez proved his genius by immediately stepping up his performances. He finished second at the next race at Assen, despite injuries from a practice crash, and then achieved a unique run of four consecutive victories at the Sachsenring, Laguna Seca, Indianapolis and Brno, while his main rivals – team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) and reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) suffered injury woes. No rookie had ever won four in a row before, and his fifth win of the year at Brno broke another record. Previously, the greatest number of rookie victories had been achieved by Kenny Roberts, who won four races on his way to becoming the first rookie to win the title in 1978.
Marquez, by now well ahead in the title chase, won again at Aragon and then finished second at the British, San Marino and Malaysian GPs. In Australia he scored no points after being black-flagged for missing the pit-stop ‘window’
in a controversial two-part race, devised to solve problems with tyre longevity. At Motegi he finished a safe second behind Lorenzo, which took him to Valencia with a comfortable 13-point advantage.
By securing the title at the age of 20 years and 266 days – Marquez comfortably beat’s Spencer’s record. The American was 21 years and 258 days when he won the 500 world title at Imola, Italy, on 4 September 1983.
Marquez has been on the road to greatness for many years. From a normal working-class family – his father Julian drove diggers on construction sites and his mother Roser works for a logistics company in their hometown – he got his first minibike when he was four, started racing when he was five and won his first title when he was eight. His younger brother Alex also started competing and now races in the Moto3 World Championship.
The older Marquez tried roadracing soon after he started off-road competition and his talent was quickly spotted by 1999 125 World Champion Emilio Alzamora, who has been his mentor ever since, guiding the youngster with an expert hand through national racing and thence into 125s, Moto2 and MotoGP.
After twice winning the 125 Catalan crown, Marquez made his World Championship debut in Portugal in April 2008. Two months later he achieved his first Grand Prix podium, with a third-place finish in the British Grand Prix at Donington Park. His debut victory in the class came in Italy in June 2010. He won a further nine races that year to take his first world title.
Marquez might have won the Moto2 world title at his first attempt in 2011 but for an injury he sustained when he crashed due to a marshalling error at the Malaysian GP. Nonetheless he fought back to dominate the Honda-powered series the following summer, during which he signed with HRC to graduate to MotoGP with Repsol Honda.
At just 20-years-old Marquez had the world at his feet and with Honda behind him he undoubtedly has the potential to become the greatest rider in the history of motorcycle Grand Prix racing.