“After being a Champion, you feel like ‘okay, now I will win everything’. But it’s not like this.”
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), after taking the 2017 crown in the season finale at Valencia, is now the youngest ever six-time World Champion and the youngest ever man to take four premier class titles. The maths tells a simple story: he’s won 80% of the MotoGP™ World Championships he’s entered. But the reality behind the headlines is not as easy as winning opening the door to more winning – and Marquez is already thinking about how to improve for next season, having defended the crown but, in his own words, after a ‘disaster’ of a start to the season.
“After being a Champion, you feel like ‘okay, now I will win everything’,” says Marquez, “but it’s not like this. Maybe it’s also my character, because I know next year I will remember the mistakes from 2017 and I won’t remember the good things. This winter I will try to understand where I need to improve. And I know the first part of the season, the first six races, for me was a disaster and I made many mistakes.”
After that tough start, things began to come together and the rider from Cervera found a better feeling with the bike. But 27 crashes over the course of the year show it hasn’t been an easy road to glory - and the more lighthearted comments about it being ‘Marquez’ style do a disservice to some of the realities within the statistics. “27 crashes are there because of something. They’re not there because yes, it’s my style…they are there because I need to push over the limits to be there. Some of the crashes helped me a lot to finish races, because if I crashed in the practices I knew in the corner I needed to be careful, and I was trying to manage it in a different way.”
More and more experience and testing – with Marquez often putting in more than a century of laps – saw things start to change. And his team played a big role in that: “There was one time, one or two races, that I wasn’t enjoying on the bike. I mean every time I tried to push I was crashing. So then it was time to change a little bit the approach and especially when you have a good team around you, it’s much easier. For example, this year, I had 27 crashes and I never had any regret from my mechanics, not a comment. They were just saying: ‘don’t worry, we will repair the bike and tomorrow you have to push even more if you want.’”
By the time the landscape of the Championship took shape, the number 93 needed to do just that – with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) emerging as an incredibly tough rival for the throne and the two close on points to the end. Marquez says that in itself was another lesson as he starts preparing, already, for 2018. “At the beginning of the season I said ‘okay, Dovizioso won’t beat me’. Or maybe when he won in Mugello: ‘Dovi won and he took points off Maverick and Valentino’. But at the end one of the most important things that I have learnt this year, not only in motorbikes but in life, is that you can’t forget anybody.”
The incredible 2017 season will certainly not be forgotten, and neither will the two protagonists who fought it out down to the wire and who showcased some of the best of MotoGP™ - dueling in the dry, dueling in the rain and sharing six wins each over the course of the calendar. Fitting for Marquez, as he celebrates his #Big6 achievement and starts gearing up for an assault on a magnificent seventh.