Following his dominant win at Jerez last weekend, the keyboard warriors sprang into action to add their take on the latest MotoGp news. Most agreed that, unless one of the other factory teams can step up to the plate and soon, we are pretty much assured of a Marquez whitewash this season. The way that he is able to make the other riders appear like they are actually competitive until he decides to get the hammer down must be depressing for the other riders as well as for the organisers who would like nothing more that 15 ultra-close races to attract bumper TV audiences. Sadly, this is not looking likely at this stage of the season. Like most of you, I am heartily sick of the sound of the Spanish national anthem but, as has been said concerning Alvaro Bautista’s current situation in WSBK, it isn’t really M&M’s responsibility to slow down just to make a race of it.
However, there was one commentator (a woman, no less) who walked into a hail of justified criticism when she dragged out the old saw that Marquez only wins because he is riding the best bike. Rather than go into statistics to prove how fatuous her comment was I replied that it had all been said before, because it has. BUT, for the sake of the argument, the facts are that it has probably only been in the last couple of races that this statement could be said to be true. After several seasons of struggling with Honda’s latest “improved” bike, Marquez IS now on the best bike in the paddock. Since his entry into MotoGp, Honda has consistently tinkered with the specifications of the bike and has, more often than not, got it wrong. This is not surprising as all the Japanese manufacturers have been guilty of this and over a long period of time as well. For the last two seasons, for example, the Ducati has been the best bike by the admission of their riders and the opposing riders as well. Why else has the available seats at Ducati been so highly prized and coveted?
Before this, the Yamaha was the best overall package for several seasons, proving itself at the short, brake and squirt tracks as well as the classic GP venues that prize high corner speeds and the more flowing layouts.
And yet, despite these vagaries, Marquez has won every championship since he entered the category (Oh, except 2015 when Rossi kicked him off his bike at Sepang). The thing is that he HASN’T ALWAYS HAD THE BEST BIKE. But the BIKE has always had the best RIDER, and that’s what the anti-Marquez brigade is not prepared to acknowledge. If he HAS had the best bike all this time, how do the nay-sayers explain that it has only been him that has consistently won Grands Prix on any of the variants that Honda has put him on? If the bike has always been the best, why haven’t lots of Honda riders (even the great Dani Pedrosa) won an equal share of races? Sadly for the person concerned who raised the silly argument, the facts simply don’t support her assertion. And what about this season? The other Honda riders are STILL nowhere even though the 2019 bike is brilliant.
But she then went on to raise the second straw, regularly grasped by the anti-Marquez brigade. “He’s only ever won on a Honda, put him on another bike and see how he goes.” As easy as it is to dismiss the “best bike” argument, it is just as easy to dismiss this one. Great riders, ALL great riders, adapt to a new bike quickly and, after a little “dip” in their performance while they acclimatise to the new machine, they pick up where they left off. Rossi, the great hero of the A-M brigade, adapted from Honda to Yamaha and kept on winning. (we will discount his two barren years at Ducati – no rider fault there, just Ducati persevering with their “This is the way we like to do it, get used to it or else” attitude. Even Casey Stoner who WON on Ducati, complained that they took no notice of his input.) It’s purely hypothetical but I’d bet that, if you took Marc off the Honda and put him on the Yamaha or the Ducati or even the Suzuki, he would go on winning. Why? Because, as someone once said, “It’s not about the bike.” In spite of the huge differences that exist between the engineering and the approach of all the factories, great riders adapt and go on winning.
An example from the past; the principle still holds. Mike Hailwood was arguably the greatest of them all, and one of the reasons for that accolade is the fact that he rode a vast array of vastly different bikes and won on all of them. Then, in the twilight of his career, he came back and did it again. Great riders, TRULY great riders will win regardless of what bike they are riding. Give them something that is even mildly competitive and they will bridge the gap between the bike’s deficiencies and their own talent and go out and put it on pole anyway.
Now you all know that I have been a Marquez fan since he first burst on the scene on a 125. Decades of watching road racing hones your “talent” meter and you spot straight away the ones who are going to go on to greatness. The grid is filled with them at the moment even though some of them are in a hole right now (notably Joan Mir who I still expect to be the best one day)
You will note that I have tried to concentrate on the positives here. If Marc goes on and wins a whole lot more races this year, I’ll be happy, but I do hope that the others lift their game and at least give him some competition. Sadly for them he IS on the best bike at the moment so it’s going to be tough.