65 laps at Portimao to make sure the eye problems are behind him and start winter testing over as best he can before joining the fight. Finally, Marc Marquez’s path seems to be going downhill while that of his opponents is going in the opposite direction.
Much has changed in MotoGP since his crash at Jerez in 2020 and the grid has been fundamentally rejuvenated. After Lorenzo, Valentino and Crutchlow retired, Dovizioso took a break and then returned, new and younger riders have emerged. It’s the generational shift that so much has been written about and represented by the last two titles of Mir and Quartararo, the tip of the iceberg, which also includes Morbidelli and Bagnaia, runners-up to the aforementioned, and Martin, Bastianini, Oliveira, Binder (Brad), while we wait and see what this year’s rookies Fernandez, Gardner, Bezzecchi and Di Giannantonio are capable of.
Normally the script envisions young ‘Gun’ defeating ‘Oldtimer’ (if Marc, who hasn’t turned 29 yet, can be defined that way…) and stealing his crown. Due to Marquez’s physical issues, that hasn’t happened and the real challenge may not come until this year.
Quartararo faced the Cervera-based rider in 2019 and always came away second best. However, this year Fabio made his MotoGP debut and with a satellite bike the Frenchman has improved a lot in the meantime and with Marc on track he will be able to understand just how much.
The only new generation rider to face Marquez and prevail was Bagnaia. In Aragon, Pecco understood how dangerous even a wounded lion can be, but on this occasion he managed to tame him. Even at Misano (in the second GP) the Honda rider was breathing down his neck, handling the pressure as best he could until he crashed.
For everyone else, the fight with Marquez will be a completely new and very important test. It may also be true that the No. 1 is on Quartararo’s bike and by some unwritten rule he will be the man to beat, but with Marc on track everything changes. He has been the real dominator in recent years, a rider who has had to face big beasts like Lorenzo, Rossi, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, learning a lot from each of them until he became unbeatable. Speed, cleverness, strategy are all qualities that Marc doesn’t lack and to beat him, especially over the long distance of a championship, you have to be perfect.
Doubts have often arisen about the real quality of the new generation, precisely because there was no benchmark to compare them. Now that he’s back, we’ll surely have all the answers.
Everyone will want to beat Marquez and he will want to prove that he has lost none of his luster, that he has left his throne unguarded and intends to take it back by force. It’s an arm wrestling between Marc and the rest of the world that only seems unrivaled to those unfamiliar with the Spanish rider. Provided, of course, that his physical condition is perfect and that Honda finally gives him a less complicated bike that doesn’t force him to push the limit all the time.
Everyone else has to pull themselves together if they want to beat Marc. It only takes a few words to write it, but it will take them a whole season to do it.