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Single Track Mind: Is Marquez Too Good?

Friday, July 11, 2014
Nouvelle Cuisine may be posh but its woefully unsatisfying...
Nouvelle Cuisine may be posh but it's woefully unsatisfying...
Marc Marquez – Too Big a Helping for Comfort?

When Nouvelle Cuisine was all the rage I was taken out, for a very posh dinner, by a French client who was based in Limoges. The waiter presented me with an enormous, blindingly white plate which contained three asparagus spears, each one separated by a single pea and sitting on a teaspoon of exquisite sauce.

We had three courses of the same size and – after thanking my client for his hospitality and for picking up a tab of truly epic proportions – I was so hungry that I sneaked off and had a tray of frites, along with an enormous sausage and huge blob of mayo, from a street vendor outside my hotel.

At the other end of the scale, I suffered an “Eat-All-You-Can Farmers’ Buffet” in Rapid City, South Dakota, and felt physically sick as my host piled the food up eight inches high.

Somewhere in between lays the perfect meal: superb quality with just the right proportions. I recommend any of the zillion restaurants along the banks of the River Meuse between Namur and Dinant in Belgium if you are ever travelling towards Luxembourg.

Too much of a good thing can turn sour really quick...
On the flip side, too much of a good thing can quickly make you physically sick.
This is the situation in which MotoGP currently finds itself. It is always extremely dangerous for motojournalists to get involved in the “Greatest Rider of All Time” debates but Marc Marquez is right up there alongside Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi. Even ultra slo-mo TV just does not do justice to Marquez: to see him in real life is something quite astonishing.

The hype that you currently hear about Marquez being challenged in this race or that race is simply nonsense. Sadly for the rest of the MotoGP paddock, he has come nowhere near to being seriously challenged by anyone so far this year. The next time there is a GP, just watch how easily he makes his winning pass and how quickly the gap to second place grows. This is not a rider under pressure.

Clearly, the motorcycling media are in full denial of this fact because it’s not much of a story simply to say that Marquez can ride rings round every other rider in motorcycling’s top racing class: The end – and don’t bother buying our magazine again.

A large part of racing, at any level, is in the rider’s head and this is the core of the current problem – if Marquez’s domination can be described in such a pejorative manner.

Marquez holds three key cards. First, he is, truly, a gifted rider. Probably only St. Casey of Stoner could really race him and I can’t see the fragile Australian superstar being pried out of retirement.

Next, Honda has given Marc an outstanding motorcycle – the best of the current crop of GP bikes.

Finally, despite being a mere 21 years old, Marquez possesses a truly world class racing brain. Because he is so much quicker than anyone else, he has the time and space to be smart and this intelligence becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more time Marc has to be clever, the better his racing decisions become and so the upward spiral continues relentlessly.

Certainly, none of the other current aliens – Dani Pedrosa, Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo – can challenge Marquez and good second-tier riders like Andrea Dovizioso and Stefan Bradl have no chance.

Before anyone gets irate with this assessment, this is in no way a criticism of any of these Moto Gods. Rather, it is just a simple statement of hard fact. To win any championship a rider has to be better than the opposition week in and week out. He has to win in wet conditions and dry conditions – from bad starts and leading all the way from the lights.

Brilliant though Marquez’s opposition are there is no way that they will beat the precocious young Spaniard regularly.

Returning to the present, the situation is even more bizarre than this. Currently Marquez has a 72-point lead over Rossi and Pedrosa. You could argue that this is so huge that it amounts to bad manners and that perhaps young Marc should pull in halfway through the next GP and play a game on his iPad to give the older riders some sort of chance.

In fact, the results do not reveal the true story. When the legendary Giacomo Agostini won seven GPs in a row, he was competing against riders on vastly inferior machinery. A Manx Norton or a Matchless G.50 was 20 mph down on top speed, compared with Ago’s MV – not to say several days slower in terms of acceleration out of every corner.

What Marquez has done is to win eight GPs against the finest riders in the world competing on the very best machinery. Goodness only knows what Pedrosa thinks when he brings his Repsol Honda to the grid alongside Marc’s identical Honda – knowing, with the absolute certainty, that Marc will kick his bottom.

A bad day at the office for Marquez is when he doesn’t take pole position as well as winning, and this is worrying news for the rest of the GP paddock.

The problem is exacerbated because Rossi and Pedrosa, the two riders currently on 128 points, are inconsistent. Rossi has had eighth, fourth and fifth positions in eight GPs and no one is going to win a World Championship with results like this.

Pedrosa has been more consistent, but third-places are useless for a world title – especially when riding the best bike in the MotoGP world.

Can Marc win all 18 MotoGP races? At the start of the season you could have got ludicrously good odds, from anyone, against this happening. Now, even the most cynical MotoGP insiders are beginning to have these thoughts. For sure, Marc will need things to go perfectly well. No mechanical failures. No errors of judgment. No one sliding into him in the first corner mayhem. But in terms of riding ability, race brain and bike performance the incredible is becoming ever more achievable with every GP.

This is a momentous time not only for the history of motorcycle racing but also because of the worry this is causing amongst MotoGP promoters. The maths are complex, because you never know if Marc will fall in love mid-season, give up racing and move to a hippy commune in Nepal to smoke dope and meditate… But, assuming that he does decide to complete the whole season, and continues to rack up 25 points a race, his chances of becoming World Champion are heading very rapidly to an irrevocable conclusion.

This could be as early Silverstone, at the end of August, and so the last six GPs would see Marquez riding as World Champion. In fact, the situation is worse than this. For hardcore race junkies like me, merely seeing one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time in action is sufficient. In fact, my dream would be to sit in a deserted grandstand with my sandwiches and a bottle of water, and watch Marquez in testing. Marquez is very much a racers’ racer with a grace and elegance which is both balletic, breathtaking and endlessly fascinating.

However, most MotoGP customers come to races to see drama. Thus, last year’s final round of the MotoGP calendar at Valencia was sold out – and with a healthy trade in black market tickets around the circuit.

By contrast when Jorge Lorenzo was already crowned World Champion in 2012, tour operators were literally walking up and down the parking lots trying to off-load their ticket allocations at any money.

Dorna are quite ruthless in the way they deal with each individual MotoGP circuit. First, you pay a huge franchise fee and then all the lucrative vendor rental money goes to Dorna as well.
The marriage between Dorna and the circuit owners is predicated on MotoGP packing in the fans and the circuit making a lot of money from ticket sales. Clearly, this isn’t going to happen if Marquez is already World Champion with four, five or even six rounds left.

For 2014 the circuit owners will have no redress – but there are many contracts coming up for renewal at the end of this season and there is no certainty that there will be a long line of takers to host further MotoGP rounds.

Don’t think that this can’t or won’t happen. Silverstone dumped their World Superbike franchise this year and even with Brits dominating the series, the sole World Superbike race in Britain this year, at Donington, attracted less than 30,000 visitors over three days. It was not a huge money spinner for the circuit.

I am hardly a fan of Dorna but in this case I do feel a hint of sympathy for the organization. Not only is Marquez dominant this year but I really don’t feel that we have seen the best of him yet, so the situation is likely to be just as bad in 2015.


The only deal breaker would be for Yamaha to find another 30 horsepower from somewhere and give Lorenzo and Rossi some sort of advantage in terms of straight line speed – as Stoner had when he won his first World Championship with the rocket ship-fast Ducati.

Aleix Espargaro has shown that it is possible to go quicker than Marquez, albeit only for a brief period, if the M1 Yamaha is given a generous allocation of gas. So, grasping at straws, maybe this is a fix to get Lorenzo back on the pace. The problem, of course, is that you can’t give 24 liters of fuel to Yamaha and not Honda. Imagine a Honda with another 30 horsepower and Marc riding it!

Maybe the best hope is 2015 and the new Michelin tires. A new make of tire on a different rim size might just upset the equilibrium, but somehow I doubt it. Marc is incredibly talented, has a huge racing brain, a brilliant bike and arguably the best technical support in the world. Will new tires hinder him? No, not a chance.

For me the best bet is for MotoUSA to take proactive and interventionist action, as the US does so successfully in many trouble spots throughout the world. I will recommend that we send Marc the contact details for all our calendar girls and hope that these ladies can provide some distraction for the good of motorcycle sport. The problem is that the way things are with young Master Marquez he could probably date all 12 at one GP – and still win!
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OutOfTheBox   August 15, 2014 10:03 PM
I don't know what Melling said in this article (I forgot, honestly) but seriously it could be time to ditch a LOT of the techno-wizardry in MotoGP, if...you really care about competitiveness. Honda is holding the bucket and in control of the spigot as well. They pump the most money into their research...but likewise they also pump the most money into MotoGP. And that money buys them..."enhanced consideration". So the real question is can their fingers be pried off the controls. If not, then face it, one of their riders is probably going to win the WC every year. They have won for the past 2 years now and this year is a lock. It is partially a lock because they broke the rookie-rule. The other reason it's a lock because they keep buying tenths. To me the solution is simple: ban the tech that buys them tenths but costs $10M to develop and put on a racebike. Have a very-simple cost/benefit analysis done on the bikes before and after each season and ban the expensive stuff that literally only adds a few tenths of an advantage. The seamless shift would be the first to go, the pneumatic valves likewise, and then you have bikes that are on a more-even keel. Lose the restrictive fuel rules, sorry, just cap the bikes at 25L and let hem go racing. Does it make sense to have "favoritism" in the rules for teams that aren't competitive? Possibly. I can see this is not a bad thing. I just don't think that Hondas' R&D should be winning races while funded by Honda's sales and we see they have a 10/1 advantage over all the other teams...and this, somehow, is "competition'? Far from it. The other teams are basically racing for 3rd place. Now when they begin to listen to me then we'll get somewhere, right...
ZoneTV   July 25, 2014 05:35 AM
Stoner brought a sub par bike to victory >>multiple times<<. Can the same be said for Marquez ? No, no, and a thousand times no. So I suggest the editor of this article should go fold some socks or rethink his assessment. Does anyone remember when Rossi caught the same heat for winning on Hondas ? To ride a Gp bike to victory yes you have to be talented .. to ride multiple GP bikes to victory you have to be form another planet. Honda has a hard time building a bad bike. It's about as impossible for them to build a bad bike as it is for Marquez to lose a race for them. Stoner has talent, yeah and so does Marquez ..lets see both race on the same Ducati and then (IMO) an objective decision could be made and not until then.. which suffice to say will be never. This is just more idol worship and bandwagon banter IMO.
OutOfTheBox   July 21, 2014 02:26 PM
...yep I think that's one big reason that Rossi left Honda and went to Yamaha.
LordRaiden   July 18, 2014 12:45 PM
I admit that at the moment I am salty because my favorite riders/brand are getting spanked right now however I won't concede that MM is the BEST rider until I see him beat Rossi and Lorenzo when they are on bikes that have better mid and top end than the bike he is riding. Until then I'm not impressed by him beating them by drafting past on the staights. MM would beat Stoner on the same machinery, except at Phillip Island, because he is better on the brakes. The comparison to Vettel may end up being accurate only time will tell. Also I don't trust that Honda is not up to some type of shenananigans due to their lobbying to become the sole engine supplier for Moto2 as well as their successful attempt to change the rules last year so that MM could be on a factory bike. I've heard it said that if you aint cheatin you aint trying and Honda has clearly been trying.
OutOfTheBox   July 16, 2014 10:04 PM
The leased bikes will never be competitive with the factory bikes as the factories will have enough control to ensure that. Alexi Espargo is competitive because his team has cherry-picked Yamaha components and they are not running at a Yamaha satellite team. This gives them some measure of independence and thus a chance to field a highly-competitive bike. Also it is clear that even if a bike is competitive in qualifying that doesn't mean it'll compete well over a full race, and that is largely because the non-factory teams don't have the resources to do full testing on the level of the factory teams. And surely some of the discrepancy is due to the level of talent on the back of the bikes. So here's the thing. If Moto2 racing is much closer because the bikes are more-competitive, and Marquez can win races from the back of the field, and "hard racing" slows down all the riders involved, then is Marquez able to win consistently because of superior talent, because he is more willing to make aggressive passes than other riders, or because he's on the best bike in the field? Probably all 3, really, and that is also partially because Honda dominates MotoGP on the technical and rule-making sides as well as on the track. Otherwise he'd be riding an LCR bike, Bradl would be on a factory bike, and we'd really see what he's all about on Bradl's bike vs Bradl on Marquez's bike with full factory support. But the game is rigged in Hondas' favor.
Choco   July 16, 2014 09:03 PM
We are lucky to be able to witness such amazing talent that MM is showing race in and race out. Nevertheless, he is being challenged mightily by Pedrosa, foremost, then by Rossi and Lorenzo. I am beginning to think the bikes are almost on par, with Honda slightly more top end and smooth shifting, corner speeds and braking are close. MM has the desire to be at the front no matter what and he's riding on the ragged edge. I think Dani Pedrosa has the best chance of beating him and his own desire to win is what saw him bounce off MM's wheel in a recent race. I think Stoner could run with him with the RC213V and even the slightest mistake would see Pedrosa, Rossi or Jorge pulling to victory. Alex Espargo is an upcoming talent too, watch for him when he gets on equal machinery. Finally, the customer R1000V Hondas, or whatever they are called, are improving a lot and pretty soon the pack will be more bunched up at the front. Love MotoGP
cggunnersmate   July 16, 2014 05:38 AM
I never said Stoner had an advantage on the Duc, just that he appeared almost unbeatable while riding it. He did have SOME advantages. This was before the carbon monocoque "frameless" Duc. It still had the trellis though it was minimal compared to Duc street bikes at the time (more like the current Monster). He also had Bstone tires made specifically for the Duc and its strengths. So the bike wasn't complete useless in the corners (no Yamaha or Honda but not the wallowing pig that came with the single tire rule). Honda and Yamaha engineered their 800's to suit the rules and new fuel limits. Ducati set out to make the most powerful beast they could with the fuel allotment then used electronics to tame it just enough to finish the race. So it was a beast on the straights, yet it still handled well enough on the corners. Look at Laguna, if any track should have had the Duc at a disadvantage it was there yet in 07 he walked away with the win by a huge margin and would have in 08 if Rossi hadn't put up such a strong fight, threw Stoner off his rythm which also messed up the Duc ecu at the time which used turn by turn GPS mapping. Stoner couldn't run his normal lines and braking points, gave the Duc brain fits. At to OOTB, the Honda IS the best bike but its not worlds away better than the Yamaha. Pedros results would hint at that, he's barely ahead of Rossi at the moment (were tied til Sachsenring). He's only occaisionally pressured MM and usually only for the first half of the race and eventually drops off (like Sachsenring). Again, was MM just maintaining that gap and waiting til Pedro dropped back? And like I said, MM had amazing races in Moto2 on a bike with no major advantages over the rest (this is a valid point). Yes he is the best rider on the best bike. Champions USUALLY are. Still, put him on the Yamaha he'd still be the guy to beat, maybe he'd be challenged more and others would pull some wins but he'd still likely win the championship. Now if he was on the Duc....
Desh   July 16, 2014 04:38 AM
Saying Stoner had an advantage on the 07 Ducati is laughable. Yeah it was fast in a straight line, but the rest of the chassis was so bad the next best Ducati in the title race was only 7th - none other than Loris Capirossi who was a title challenger the previous year and who started 07 as the clear number 1 rider in the team. With hindsight Stoners accomplishments on the Ducati are truly remarkable. Could Marquez have done as well on such a problematic machine? He might be the only one in the current field that could have won a title on that Ducati. Could Stoner race and beat him? I think a fit and focused Stoner would be putting up a lot more of a fight than Pedrosa that's for sure, there's simply no way Stoner would have allowed Marquez to win 9 races in a row. And when a guys able to beat you it means he's able to put real pressure on you, and then mistakes are possible. Marquez hardly makes mistakes now because nobody can consistently pressure him. We just saw Dani get beaten at his best track, and he's the only guy with equal machinery to Marquez right now. It's going to be a looooo g season.
OutOfTheBox   July 15, 2014 04:14 PM
...I'd like to see something like the US Open or the Olympics but for motorcycle-racing instead of golf or summer-sports. But it still involves a sport in which most people wouldn't participate, simply because it's too risky. Sitting around a bar at the beach getting drunk, starting fights, and hooking-up with complete strangers for sex, now that, most people can identify with. Maybe Dorna can organize some sort of tour for that, license it, sell the media rights etc and we'll forget all about MotoGP and cheer on our favorite horndogs.
OutOfTheBox   July 15, 2014 04:06 PM
More likely, MotoGP has just gotten used to his aggressive riding-style. More likely, riders realize that it isn't going to matter, he's going to blow past them anyway, even if he has to wait until he makes a nice clean pass even if it has to be on the ensuing straight (or for Ducati at the next tight corner). More likely, his bike is simply the fastest thing in MotoGP and only one guy can really compete with him on an even kneel. He's locked in the Vettel Zone: the only way that you can really measure him as a talent in MOTOGP (not Moto2, WSBK, BSB or whatever) is to put him on a different bike and see if he continues to excel. He is on the best team, on the fastest bike in MotoGP. Until that changes, Marquez will not grow any further than he has already. Is that enough for some people to anoit him as The One? Sure. But it is no more than it has been. Now back to the original question: is he too fast for MotoGP? Too good for the sport? Again, not hardly. He's an exception, and hopefully MotoGP doesn't depend on him to appeal to the public. I would say that Honda is too big for MotoGP, except that it's just as likely that MotoGP is just fundamentally archaic. Even if I personally am not interested in any other sort of motorcycle racing, it's still just "motorcycle racing". I mean, world interest in MotoGP is dwarfed by world interest in "football" and what is that but 22 guys running around a field chasing a ball and crying when they crack shins against each other (though the grabbing and holding in this years WC was unbelievable, I though I was watching rugby for a minute, except, of course, rugby players would never lie down on the field and cry like that). No I fear the problem with MotoGP really is that it is too big, expensive and complicated. If we were talking about 1972 and Haliwood, Roberts, Spencer, Lawson, etc. winning 9 straight who would have a problem with it, really. The main problem is it's just too remote, too technically far-fetched for most people. I'd say Marquez dominating is probably a better thing for MotoGP than a bunch of random guys wining a race or two per season. Stars are a good thing. Evidence: Moto2. Moto-what?
cggunnersmate   July 14, 2014 05:39 AM
It's an opinion piece so you have to take it for what it is, right, wrong or somewhere in the middle. MM is without doubt, IMO, the best rider in the world right now. Even Stoner in his two title winning seasons when he seemed almost unbeatable, could still be beaten on occaision. MM so far is untouchable. No he's not walking away with a 30 second lead by the checkers like Stoner would on the Duc but he's also not being truly challenged consistently. He's been roughed up on the start several times and gotten shuffled back and still made his way through the field and on to comfortable wins. So you have to ask, when he does win but by only a couple/few seconds, was that really all he had or did he take it easy and maintain the gap since it's all he needed to do? His second and last year in Moto2, he often came through the pack, I think he even won from last place once (have to check the records to be sure) on a bike that had no real performance advantage over the rest of the field. That's pure talent. What's more suprising to me is how much he's matured. In Moto2 he had many questionable manuevers and just plain brain farts. Last year he had some sketchy moments, almost collecting other riders on corner entry and even clipping Dani yet this season he's just been a really smart racer with his only drama almost binning it in the final corner at COTA while trying to be cute.
OutOfTheBox   July 13, 2014 11:06 AM
...if I may add a 3rd post here...what i see here that is really interesting is how Marquez exposes a side of the character of the other aliens that we rarely see. I've seen races this year where Lorenzo, once Marquez passes him late in a race, clearly gives up. And that's got to help marquez, taking pressure off him. Pedrosa is clearly hungry for a win, and is clearly right on Marquez's tail late in the race. So far he seems to have the speed (especially getting over his collarbone and arm-pump problems) and just needs to put it all together. In at least one race he was clearly faster than Marquez (maybe Marquez wasn't pushing 100%) and only because he ran into the back of another bike did Pedrosa not challenge for the win. It has been close for Marquez this year, but some of the riders have hung in there and challenged, and some have given up, and some have managed the challenge well (Dovi is never going to have to pay for a meal in Bologna) and some have not (Crutchlow is making a whole lot of money to ride like Bautista, I think, while Bautista has definitely realized that sliding out in the first turn is not a good way to keeo a MotoGP seat). It has been a great year for true MotoGP fans, because the racing has been good on many levels. Compare this to Stoners' first year at Honda, Rossi was lost in the desert of Ducati, Pedrosa was watching Stoner win races on the same bike while he consistently came in 3rd, and Lorenzo first really found a true challenge after 2 straight WCs...is this year better or worse? I am glad they are going to a set electronics package, but will we regret that like the single-tire rule? I think so...To me, the hardware and electronics are where the real story is in MotoGP, everything the riders do depends on that, but there is a case where the rider is obviously making the best of his machinery...or...clearly not. But rider-skill is one thing. The main issue in MotoGP for me is the performance return on investment. That has been the problem in MotoGP for years. Melling now wants to make it Marquez being too good of a rider...come on, seriously.
OutOfTheBox   July 13, 2014 10:49 AM
In any case with the WC in his belt at 20 and riding a 9-win streak he's at the very top of the game and from there, there's only one way to go but down. It's just a question of when and how hard. The dude almost broke his neck this past week and what would Melling say about him in his next article.
OutOfTheBox   July 13, 2014 10:45 AM
Melling has this thing, which I see fairly often among journalists, where they walk away from the facts and begin to write out their own opinions, and when they do that and when they get overly excited their articles stop being legitimately fact-based opinion-pieces and become mere hype for their personal issues. Aside from the ongoing "battle" with Dorna, Marquez simply hasn't won all his races this year in runaways and last year Lorenzo actually beat him in more races than he beat Lorenzo. I can think of at least one 3rd place for Marquez that contributed to his title. He's only doing exceptionally-well this year in going undefeated. He's exceptionally fast, true, but the gap between him, Pedrosa, Rossi and Lorenzo is not so large now, as possibly it was at the beginning of the year...when Lorenzo definitely had issues and Pedrosa was preparing for arm-pump surgery, Rossi was his only real competition. But yes, he's got world-class talent, the best team and the best bike. So now he's in a classic Vettel position. I was hoping that he would not resign with Honda because to me at this point he needs a bigger challenge and I was hoping that he would switch teams with one of the other top riders. But apparently he likes Honda that much. I mean, they did bend the rules to get him on the bike.
AnthonyD   July 12, 2014 12:04 PM
What is he wrong about? Marquez is killing it out there. It is a new paradigm of riding and the other riders and manufacturers are going to have to play catch up to make things dramatic again. He is spot on! History repeats itself too. In some years, someone will again come along and ride a motorcycle so fast that we will again question who is the GOAT. It is exciting!
spyglass   July 12, 2014 09:14 AM
Well, how 'bout crawling BACK into the box and give your public a correct assessment of this GP season....the so-far results speak for themselves, n'cest pas? Could it be that your favorite rider/bike brand is being throttled this season and you're spewing sour grapes? And you're envious of the author's grasp of topics, whatever the subject? Hmmm?
OutOfTheBox   July 12, 2014 01:31 AM
I love how this guy can be so wrong so often on so many subjects and still make money writing. How can you not love capitalism.
wwiddy   July 11, 2014 03:32 PM
And that's all she wrote! I don't think Marquez's neck-head stand on the pavement during practice is even going to do anything to slow him down. I'm not sure even how I'll react when he's won the championship with 6 left to go. I guess I'd hope he still goes whole hog and nabs every single point. I'd watch that - it's a different kind of drama - Marquez versus History, if not his fellow riders.