Marc Marquez captured his third MotoGP title with a Japanese GP win this year.
With his youthful complexion and boyish smile, Marc Marquez looks more akin to someone having just stepped out of a boy-band rehearsal than having wrestled and tamed the world’s most powerful two-wheeled machinery.
On Sunday in Japan, Marquez was victorious and duly crowned MotoGPworld champion for the third time in his four seasons in the class in the still nascent career of the 23-year-old.
His prowess on the bike has led his hero-turned-rival Valentino Rossi to claim he could become the greatest rider in the history of the sport, and similar accolades have come from others vying to lay claim to that mantle: Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan and Angel Nieto.
The Repsol Honda rider takes such praise in his stride, describing the Rossi adulation thus: “It is really impressive when you hear that from Valentino because he is one of the most important riders.”
The debate over MotoGP’s greatest will live long after Marquez hangs up his race overalls but his philosophy has been to “enjoy it” in terms of racing and allow everything else to slot into place.
“I think it’s important first to enjoy your life, realise that it’s a privilege to live the life we’re living,” he says.
“I had a big opportunity when I was a child and I used it. And I think iit’s important when you train hard to enjoy doing it. If you think it’s just a job finally you will be bored. It’s a dream come true.”
He believes his passion for all things two wheels was ingrained into him from an early age, his parents Julia and Roser keen motorbike enthusiasts, who marshalled at the local track and bought their older son his first motorbike, a Yamaha Peewee 50, at the age of four.
Marquez still has the bike in his possession, a reminder perhaps of how far he has progressed in the intervening two decades.
The family hails from the Catalonian town of Cervera – a modest place set up by three peasant families in the 11th century and with a population today of less than 10,000 people.
Somehow, the Spanish enclave’s back story is befitting for a family, which prides itself on being humble.
Ramon Marquez is his uncle and head of his official fan club and describes his nephew as “exactly the same way on and off the bike. The Marc you see on the TV is the Marc we know”.
There are three years between the siblings but the junior Marquez at least has proved in the ascendancy on the family games console.
“On the PlayStation, I am always so angry with my brother because he is always beating me,” explains the newly crowned MotoGP champion. “It is MotoGP, FIFA, car racing but everything we do, Alex is stronger.”
The apparent midas touch on two wheels which he has highlighted to such good effect in recent seasons clearly does not translate off the track.
Another motocross game on the iPhone has seen constant battles with Marquez and teammate Dani Pedrosa, the latter “always one or one-and-a-half seconds faster than me. I get angry because you can see the times online, I know his nickname and can see always that he is faster than me”.
In real life, at least, Marquez boasts the upper hand, with Pedrosa saying in one interview about his teammate: “Marc always rides at the limit – it seems like he’s crashing all the time but he’s not crashing.”
There is the another cog in the Marquez family wheel: Emilio Alzamora, a former bike racer and behind-the-scenes architect to much of Marquez’s success – the pair first introduced in 2004.
Alzamora, who shuns the spotlight, says of the Marquez clan: “Marc has not lost his values instilled in him at home. With all that he has accomplished in his 23 years, it is not easy. With Marc, you will not see him with a Ferrari, what he likes is to go home and take the dirt bike out and go practice. This attitude is what got him to where he is today.”
Meanwhile, Uncle Ramon says of the Alzamora effect: “The personal environment through Emilio and his team has been important in building Marc’s personality. It’s nice his character hasn’t changed and the education his parents gave him has much to do with it.”
It has not all been plain sailing from start to finish. In the junior ranks, Marquez was so small they had to add weights to him to balance the bike, while an eye injury during a practice session in Sepang in 2011 at one stage looked likely to bring a premature end to his career.
Risky surgery rectified the problem and he has not looked back ever since, becoming the first MotoGP title winner in his rookie season for 35 years after replacing Casey Stoner, and only the fourth rider in history to win world titles in three different categories – the others being Mike Hailwood, Phil Read and Rossi.
On the bike, he has been described as “somewhere between ballet dancer and wrestler”.
He has danced his way to the very top of his sport, replacing Rossi as the benchmark on two wheels. The Italian is a rider he calls “my reference, my hero and now it is a pleasure to fight with him”.
He says it is impossible to make one title a favourite over the other and, even with title number three to his name, the motivation remains undiminished.
Asked if is driven more by the desire to win than the fear of losing, he says: “The desire to win, I love this feeling and I try to work hard to keep it. But you need to respect the opponents and keep our concentration, this is one of the keys to stay at the top.”
In their on-track tussles to do so with Rossi and the rest of the grid, Marquez makes bike racing sound like an art form, calling overtaking “beautiful”, the rider making greater use of his elbows in the terms, an approach now rectified by his peers.
Off it, he likes to brush shoulders with other Spanish sporting celebrities, revealing the three most famous people in his phone book are currently Formula 1 racer Fernando Alonso, Barcelona and Spain footballer Andres Iniesta and the tennis player Rafael Nadal.
With that trio, he has a shared mentality: “My mentality is always to win.”
Source: Red Bull Content Pool