You knew it was coming. It had happened in San Marino in mid-September and now, three weeks later, it was coming in Thailand. For an entire race in the prime series in motorcycle racing, Fabian Quartararo had Marc Marquez attached like a band of elastic to his back wheel. And, on the last lap, in a supreme show of race craft and mental fortitude, Marquez squeezed past Quartararo for the second time in a month to win.

Whichever the circuit, whoever the rider, whatever the race situation, the feeling with Marquez is that a decisive pass is just a matter of time. Increasingly, with Marquez and his current Repsol Honda team, many statistical records in MotoGP—the 500 cc class of motorcycling—are acquiring that matter-of-time feeling.

The win in Thailand on Sunday gave the Spaniard his sixth championship in MotoGP. That’s one behind Valentino Rossi and two behind Giacomo Agostini. At 26 years, Marquez is the youngest of these three riders to win six titles. When it came to titles, he has always held an age advantage to the two Italian greats who redefined motorcycle racing in their respective primes. At his sixth title, he’s stretched that advantage to three years.


Not bad for one that Rossi once termed an “all or nothing" rider.

At 41, Rossi, who has perhaps done more to raise the status of MotoGP than any other rider, is winding down gamely. At 26, even with six titles, Marquez feels he is only getting started. He’s, unarguably, the best rider on the grid. He’s, arguably, got the best bike on the grid. He looks like he is having fun racing. The mind boggles at the numbers Marquez might end up with.

Like most other riders, Marquez came to MotoGP through the ranks. But unlike most riders, he came a marked man. A title in the 125 cc class in his third season. A title in the 250 cc class in his second season. A MotoGP title in his first season. Each title burnished his racing style that was sharp and crafty, bold and confident.

In MotoGP, Marquez has hardly known losing. Six titles in seven years is just the headline number. Peel it further, and the expressions of dominance keep coming. Agostini, outstanding as he was, raced in an era when MotoGP was structured differently. A more apt comparison would be with Rossi, who Marquez effectively took the baton from.

Rossi leads all riders in MotoGP race wins, with 89. Marquez is currently fourth, with 53 race wins. But the difference is that Rossi’s 89 wins have come in 335 races, a winning percentage of 27%. Marquez’s 53 wins have come in just 123 races, a winning percentage of 43%. While Rossi has ended up on the podium in 60% of the races, Marquez has done so 75% of the time.


While Rossi has 55 pole positions, Marquez has already annexed the all-time record, starting from the first position 61 times so far. While Rossi has won on 23 circuits in 19 seasons, Marquez has already won on 20 circuits in just seven seasons.

Equally, there’s a panache with which Marquez has gone about business, even though he was following in very large footsteps. Rossi has been a cult figure in motorcycle racing, fostering a sub-culture that was irreverent, one that raced hard on the track but did not take itself seriously off it. Part of Marquez’s appeal is that even as he tests the boundaries on track, he also lets fans into his race craft.

Rossi is also the cautionary tale for Marquez, of how injury and an unworthy machine can catch out even the best of riders in their best years. When Rossi was winning titles, he was doing so emphatically. In a nine-year stretch between 2001 and 2009, Rossi won seven titles, three with Honda and then four with Yamaha. In each, he won by a points margin of 15-40%, which is generally more than what Marquez has managed.

But in 2010, Rossi’s Yamaha campaign was derailed by a broken leg. He missed three races, which put him out of title contention. In 2011, he switched to home manufacturer Ducati, which didn’t turn out to be a competitive bike. Rossi eventually returned to Yamaha, made it competitive again. He even finished second in three consecutive years, twice to Marquez. But the age of Marquez had begun. A decade has passed since Rossi’s last title.


Marquez’s contract with Repsol Honda is till next year, though there are talks of extending it till 2022. Ducati is on the up. But if the Honda bike continues to be as good as it has been in the past few years, Marquez should keep winning and entertaining. You can see it coming.

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