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Marquez struggles with the fine line between glory & gravel

Marquez struggles with the fine line between glory & gravel

Marquez has made a career out of riding on the ragged edge, but this year’s bike leaves him very little room for error...

With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.

Even the most hardcore Marquez fan would have to concede that his bid to win a third straight MotoGP crown looks like mission impossible. The old cliché about there still being a long way to go is true with 11 races and 275-points still to fight for, but even the eternally optimistic and positive Marquez looks resigned to surrendering his crown.

A third unforced error in seven races in Catalunya last weekend left him 69 and 68-points adrift of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo respectively.

Marquez is now relying on a monumental capitulation from Rossi and Lorenzo. And on their current form that looks about as likely as hell freezing over.

Rossi has scored 15 podiums in the last 16 races, and while Marquez has already failed to finish in three races this season, the Italian has only failed to finish in three races since the beginning of 2012!

Meanwhile, Lorenzo’s win in Catalunya took him to a fourth straight victory for the first time in his career, and he now looks as unbeatable as Marquez did at this stage in 2014.

Lorenzo only led for 98-laps in the whole of last season, yet in the last four he’s led all 103, setting a new MotoGP record for the number of consecutive laps led in the process.

Rossi and Lorenzo’s form hardly gives Marquez a glimmer of hope, though he has been in a deeper hole before and nearly dug himself out.

He was 82-points behind Stefan Bradl after just six races of the 2011 Moto2 World Championship. He then embarked on a run of six wins in seven races to come agonisingly close to pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in history. Only a career threatening eye injury suffered in practice at the penultimate round in Sepang denied him that chance.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever say Marquez is out of title contention after just seven races. But the reality is that a Championship he ruled with an iron fist last season is now completely out of his hands.

It is not only Rossi and Lorenzo that Marquez has to contend with. The Yamaha YZR-M1 is now the undisputed technical benchmark in MotoGP.

Marquez has made numerous mistakes as he’s tried override a Honda underneath him that simply won’t allow him to race like he wants. The 2015 RC213V is laden with horsepower. But the aggressive engine character means the bike is hard to control when decelerating, particularly from the rear.

So Marquez has to abuse and overload the front tyre more to stop and when the grip goes away, he can’t attack the corners with his famed aggression.

One telling statistic so far in 2015 is that Marquez has crashed five times – three in the last five races. Only two riders have not been down the road once this season. Those two are Rossi and Lorenzo. Proof if ever it was needed that the Yamaha is a much more forgiving and compliant bike.

Marquez has made a career out of riding on the ragged edge. He flirts with the limit more than any other ride I’ve ever seen, and in the past he’s always been able to improvise and bring himself back from the brink of disaster.

This year’s bike leaves him very little room for error, and Marquez has struggled to balance the fine line between glory and gravel.

It’s Assen next, and a solution for Marquez could be a hybrid RC213V that he briefly tested in Catalunya on Monday.

It features a 2014 chassis with a 2015 swingarm he’s been using since Le Mans with the ’15-spec engine, as Honda desperately tries to harmonise man and machine again. He’s got absolutely nothing to lose, so I expect him try and get back the feel of last year on the combination of old and new.

When Marquez won a rain-hit race in Assen last year, he celebrated by doing the breaststroke on his Honda over the finish line.

That was when things were all going swimmingly. He’ll arrive in Assen next week with his title hopes already sinking without a trace.

MotoGP, 2015, GRAN PREMI MONSTER ENERGY DE CATALUNYA, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

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