HOW HARD CAN IT BE?
How hard can it be? A favourite mantra of mine. I suspect it might be a mantra favoured by Marc Marquez too, ever since he first swung a leg over his Yamaha PW50 as a pint sized four-year-old.
At Motegi a few short weeks ago, Marquez’s ‘how hard can it be’ attitude took him to his seventh World Championship crown. A quite frankly ludicrous achievement wrapped up with three races to go and all before he hits the tender age of 26. On reflection, I’ve decided it’s a mostly futile and more than a little depressing exercise to compare my life achievements at 25 with those of ‘Mighty Marc’. I would recommend you avoid making the same comparison. That is of course unless your name happens to be Valentino Rossi.
I am definitely not going to decry the achievements of Marquez – they are every bit as incredible as they appear, and the fashion in which they have been achieved is simply phenomenal. Indeed, Marquez is certainly on track to obliterate pretty much every record going, including those of the ‘GOAT’ (Greatest Of All Time), Valentino Rossi. But maybe the pound-forpound achievements of Rossi at the same stage are closer than some may give him credit for.
Cast your mind way back to 2005. Rossi had just wrapped up his seventh title (he did it with 4 races to spare). Back then, Rossi looked every bit as invincible as Marquez does right now. We’re all familiar with the eerie parallels between the racing careers of Rossi and Marquez; the Laguna Seca corkscrew and the Jerez turn 13 incidents just to name a couple. Delve a little deeper and Maybe Marquez isn’t as far ahead as you might think.
Marquez won his first seven titles over nine seasons. Rossi also won his first seven in nine. In fact, from making their debuts in the World Championship it took Marquez 11 seasons to register seven titles, something that Rossi achieved in a mere 10 seasons. When you look at the Premier Class, Rossi’s feats appear even more impressive, with the Italian winning five titles in a row and with two different manufacturers. Marquez has won his five titles in six seasons, all on the Honda. Marquez definitely has the edge when it comes to youth. He was only 25 years and 246 days old when he clinched the title in Motegi. However, Rossi isn’t as far behind as you might think. He was less than a year older than Marquez when he won his magnificent seventh at the relatively tender age of 26 years, 221 days.
I guess the reason for my caution is that some folks might be a little premature in preparing for what seems an inevitable coronation of Marquez as the GOAT in three years’ time, when he will have just won his tenth. In this game, no matter how phenomenal your talent is, you’re only ever as good as your last result and the MotoGP landscape is one that can change faster than a 300bhp Honda at full chat. Indeed, rewinding back to 2005, as the 26-year-old Rossi acted out his ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ title celebration at Sepang he seemed every bit as invincible as Marquez does now. Somehow the landscaped changed for Rossi. The following year, 2006, brought a fiercely quick, but somewhat unreliable, Yamaha M1 and a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes not to mention duelling with the late, great, Nicky Hayden – completely obsessed with fulfilling his childhood dream. The title got away. The year after that, 2007, saw the switch to 800cc machines and the emergence of Casey Stoner on the Ducati, a man able to ride it like no other. That title got away. Rossi bounced back, claiming the ’08 and ‘09 titles (his 8th and 9th) in typical fashion but the leg break at Mugello in ’09 was his first major injury and marked the start of his barren period. Two miserable years at Ducati, a return to Yamaha in ’13 which have had many highlights but also the disappointment of the 10th title getting away from him in ’15. Remarkably, Rossi’s quest for his 10th – Il Decimo, will continue into his 40th year.
The fact remains that Marquez has won his seven titles doing things with a bike that just shouldn’t be possible. You can’t take your eyes off him. You hold your breath. He is redefining the sport just as Rossi, Agostini, Roberts et al have done before him. Records are made to be broken and Marquez will not worry for a second that Ducati remain on a steep upward curve, that he’s largely avoided serious injury in the Premier Class, that Lorenzo will be on the same bike next year or that there’s a generation of young, hungry sharks, in the shape of Bagnaia, Mir, Oliveira and others looking to gobble him up. But the careers of Rossi and Marquez have had so many parallels up to this point who would bet against that pattern continuing?
I think Marquez stands a great chance of breaking all records. But does he think he will finish his career as the Greatest Of All Time? Probably. How hard can it be?
Are Rossi’s days as the GOAT soon to be a distant memory?
Marquez the master.