The future of MotoGP looked pretty bleak following the loss of two of its shining stars; Marco Simoncelli was lost to a fatal accident towards the end of 2011 and two-time World Champion Casey Stoner was lost to the lure of early retirement and more time with his young family. Filling Stoner’s boots and going some way to restoring the look of MotoGP’s future is an exciting, talented and very young Spaniard; Marc Marquez.
Spain seems to churn out talented motorbike racers faster than they do chorizo and novelty wicker donkeys. Marquez though, seems to be something special; Nicky Hayden – the 2006 World Champion – has said that “Marquez will change the face of MotoGP”. If Hayden was likely to be fighting at the front of the grid through 2013 then such a claim could be seen as attempted mind-games; applying pressure on the younger rider. Given that it seems Hayden will spend another year struggling on his Ducati in the mid-field and Marquez, it seems, will be at the front, you’d have to assume that Hayden truly believes his own words.
Of all the things to look forward to in the 2013 motor sport season, the arrival of Marc Marquez to the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing is one of the most exciting. His rise to the premier class has been meteoric and he is already being hailed as a future MotoGP champion, perhaps as soon as 2013. Marquez won the hotly contested 125cc class in 2010 and would have most likely won the Moto2 class the following year if it wasn’t for injury late in the season. He did however, take the Moto2 title in 2012 but it’s not necessarily his titles and impressive win tally that make Marc Marquez the latest boy wonder to enter MotoGP.
His style is almost hypnotising and it allows him to take extraordinary corner speed, leading to either remarkable overtakes or spectacular crashes – making Marquez the ideal replacement for the departed world champion Casey Stoner. In Moto2, he was undeniably the quickest rider but MotoGP will be an altogether more difficult proving ground. To start with, the pressure from within his new team – the works Honda racing outfit – will be intense. The Japanese manufacturer has already stated that they expect wins from Marquez in his rookie season – anything less will be considered a failure. They’ll be expecting one of their riders – Pedrosa or Marquez – to challenge for the championship in 2013 and considering Pedrosa’s terrible luck and historical inability to clinch the title, at least half the expectation rests on Marquez’ young shoulders.
As well as the pressure from his own garage, the pressure out on the track will be like nothing Marquez has experienced before; On a factory Honda and with talent like his, he’ll be fighting at the front at almost certainly every race of the year. That means he’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder and wheel-to-wheel with the likes of his team-mate Dani Pedrosa and the mightily impressive Yamaha line-up of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Finishing fourth to those guys will be impressive enough but to get in amongst and even ahead of them will take an awful lot of extra effort and skill.
One thing is for sure, the further into the season we get without Marquez winning a Grand Prix, the more the pressure will build, meaning the likelihood of an extraordinary performance or a highly embarrassing mistake will be greater. Whatever, it will be fun to see a young talented rider attack the established competitors on a bike with power like nothing he has raced on before. If Marquez, as Hayden claims, is to change the face of MotoGP, it can only be for the better.