Blimey, that didn’t take long.
On Sunday, at the tender age of twenty, at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, Marc Marquez took the chequered flag to become the youngest winner of the premier motorcycling class since Freddie Spencer in Belgium way back in 1982.
However, this wasn’t a victory built on the thrilling, wheel to wheel, audacious style with which the young rider made his name on his way to world championships in the 125cc and Moto2 classes. This was a chilling dissection of a race win, a victory based on a forensic study of the rider in front of him, fellow Repsol Honda garage member Dani Pedrosa, before making the decisive move with nine laps to go. Although some of that audacity remains. The telling blow was made in the sweeping set of curves that mirror the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel sequence of Silverstone, a sequence that observers had reliably observed would be one of the least likely passing points on the circuit.
The BBC commentator Steve Parrish had been speculating during the race whether the young man’s stamina would hold up over the demands of a long race on a challenging new circuit. The question was whether Marquez had made his move too early. In truth, once that pass had been made the victory never seemed seriously in doubt. In the aftermath of the race, it was Pedrosa complaining of his arms struggling to meet the rigours of the duel.
This is a result that will have been particularly galling for Pedrosa. Following the retirement from the class of Casey Stoner from the Repsol garage, Pedrosa may have reasonably expected a period of dominance on tracks like Austin that could have been purpose built for the Honda while the young blood beds in. That expectation has been blown apart. This result will have sent a shiver through all of the pack, but none more so than Pedrosa.
That’s enough of the objective analysis of the victory. Here’s the personal bit. Marquez is simply phenomenal. It’s rare that a rider emerges that, from an early point, you simply watch, thunderstruck, and think to yourself ‘He’s going to be a GP champion’. Estoril, 2010, was the moment. The 125 race was red flagged part way through due to rain. On the sighting lap for the reduced sprint, Marquez fell and had to return to the pits. Starting from the back of the grid, in nine laps he carved through the field in majestic style to take the chequered flag and the top of the podium. I can still remember shaking my head in disbelief and thinking this guy is going to be huge. Three years later, he has taken his first MotoGP victory in only his second race.
This was not the most exciting race in the world, certainly not as exciting as the commentators would have had you believe. However, it was probably the most important we’ve witnessed since Lorenzo took his first premier class win at Estoril (that circuit again) in 2008.
The victory leaves Marquez joint top of the standings, alongside Jorge Lorenzo, runaway victor in Qatar, a race enlivened by Valentino Rossi’s charge through the placings to take second. However, I don’t think it’s Vale that will be most exercising Lorenzo’s thoughts right now. Marquez has announced his arrival in emphatic style.
Footnotes: Cal Crutchlow continued his strong start to the season, following a fifth at Qatar, with a fourth in Austin. Not bad for a rider new to the circuit on a satellite Yamaha bike over a rival, Rossi, who had the benefit of both a factory ride and also pre-season testing on the track. Lorenzo has made clear his admiration for Cal. That’s all the endorsement you need.