Despite still only being 28 years old, Marc Marquez is widely considered to be one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time. The statistics certainly back that up with eight world titles, 82 wins and 134 podiums to his name, those last two figures being the fourth and sixth highest, respectively, of all time. And given he missed the entire 2020 season, those figures could have been even better.
But it’s not just the wins and podiums that jump out; it’s the manner in which he’s achieved them that stands him apart from everyone else, particularly in the MotoGP class where, since 2013, he’s won six of the eight titles available. The way he rides his Repsol Honda RC213V is simply breathtaking, literally on the edge, seemingly, at each and every corner.
That’s been his undoing many time in the past, primarily in practice and qualifying, but where a normal rider would have disappeared into the gravel trap, Marquez has demonstrated feats of unbelievable skill to come back time and time again from disaster – except at Jerez last year where he suffered a broken arm which put him out for the season but could also have brought an end to his sparkling career.
One of just four riders to have won world championships in three different categories (the others being Mike Hailwood, Phil Read and Valentino Rossi), no comeback has been more anticipated in the MotoGP world but as he sets to make his 14th appearance in the World Championship arena in 2021, we look at some of his finest moments – picking ten is no easy task given there’s been so many!!
2008 – British Grand Prix, Donington Park
It was a baby-faced (has that changed?!) Marquez that appeared in the world championship for the first time in 2008, contesting the 125cc class on a Repsol-backed KTM and with the Spanish petroleum giant already behind him that was an early indication of the talent he possessed.
The number 93 machine and rider had a steady start to their season but points were scored at the fourth round in China with a maiden top ten finish coming just three rounds later at Catalunya. However, the first undoubted sign of what lay ahead came a round later at Donington Park.
Riding at the Leicestershire venue for the first time, Marquez qualified in seventh and whilst Scott Redding took the win – his first in the class and, at the time, the youngest ever in GP history, Marquez claimed third for his first ever GP podium. Two more top six finishes followed and he ended his first World Championship year in a solid 13th overall.
2010 – Italian Grand Prix, Mugello
After improving to eighth in 2009, Marquez switched to Derbi in 2010 and he didn’t have to wait long for his first Grand Prix victory. The then 17-year old took sixth in qualifying but was in contention for the win in the Tuscan hills of Mugello from the off.
Indeed, it was a typical 125cc race with four riders – Marquez, Bradley Smith, Pol Espargaro and Nicolas Terol – duking it out at the head of the field. Smith and Marquez did most of the leading across the line but going into the 20th and final lap it was still anyone’s race.
Marquez had led though from the 18th lap and continued to do so on the last lap and, crucially, all the way down the long straight to the chequered flag. His winning margin was just 0.039s with just 0.161s covering the top four! But it sparked a winning habit with his race tactics for the rest of the season showing calm and maturity to the whole task in hand, no easy task in the cut and thrust, hectic world of 125’s.
2010 – Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril
After taking his first GP win, Marquez promptly won the next four as well to become the first rider since Rossi in 1997 to win five 125cc races in a row. However, lowly finishes at the Czech Republic round and in the USA saw him drop from first to third in the standings but he responded in superb fashion to win five of the next races.
His victory at Estoril, the penultimate round of the 17-race calendar, stood out, not only for his skill but also for his determination. The race was red-flagged with Marquez running second to main championship rival Terol but when returning to the grid for the second race, Marquez fell on the sighting lap and had to return to the pits for hasty repairs.
He failed to make it out of pit lane in time and had to start the race from the back of the grid. Undeterred, he simply tore through the pack and overtook the entire 30-strong field to win the race and extend his lead heading into the final round at Valencia. Fourth place saw him duly take his first World title, his eventual winning margin over Terol being 14 points
2011 – Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island
After winning the 125cc world title, Marquez immediately moved up to the Moto2 category in 2011, riding for the one-man Monlau Competicion team, which was again managed by former world champion Emilio Alzamora and largely funded once more by Repsol.
Two retirements and a 21st place finish in the first three rounds appeared to have stunted his rapid rise but the 18-year old quickly dispelled that myth and in the next 11 rounds, he took seven wins and four seconds to cut the gap to championship leader Stefan Bradl from 82 points to just six!
Second in Malaysia allowed him to take the championship lead for the first time but at Phillip Island, Australia he was found guilty of riding in an irresponsible manner in qualifying and subsequently handed a one minute penalty to his qualifying time. It meant he again had to start the race from the back of the grid but he again fought his way through the field, this time ending the race in third.
2012 – Valencian Grand Prix, Valencia
Despite of rumours linking him to the MotoGP class, Marquez remained in Moto2 for 2012 where he was involved in a year-long battle for the title with fellow Spaniard Pol Espargaro, who, ironically, is his team-mate in 2021.
Eight wins were taken prior to the race at Phillip Island, Australia and third place enabled him to take his second world title with a round to spare and ahead of his much anticipated move to Repsol Honda and MotoGP in 2013.
His ninth and final win of the season came at the final round at Valencia where he had to start from 33rd on the grid. His race performance saw him overtake a staggering 20 riders in the first three corners alone and he duly won the race by 1.2s, to complete one of the best comebacks ever witnessed. His nine wins in the season remains the highest ever achieved in the Moto2 class.
2013 – American Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas
With two world titles in three years, Marquez’ made the expected move to MotoGP and the Repsol Honda team in 2013 although he had big boots to fill as he replaced the retiring Casey Stoner, the Australian having won the title for the team in 2011.
Right from the word go though, Marquez demonstrated a dazzling display of talent, aggression and self-belief but it didn’t come without problems as he crashed no less than 15 times, fortunately escaping injury on each occasion.
This issue has remained a trait of his career ever since but back to 2013 and after taking third at the opening round in Qatar, he took pole for the second round at the Circuit of Americas, the youngest rider ever to achieve such a feat. He went on to take the win from team-mate Dani Pedrosa and at the age of 20 years and 63 days, he also became the youngest race winner ever in the class.
Records would continue to fall and at season’s end, Marquez had six wins, six seconds and four thirds to his name taking the title by four points from Jorge Lorenzo. It made him the youngest ever MotoGP World Champion and the first to win on debut since Kenny Roberts in 1978.
2014 – Catalan Grand Prix, Catalunya
If 2013 was good for Marquez, then 2014 was even better; indeed, the first half of the season was simply sensational – ten starts, ten wins! It led to many people asking if he could go through the season unbeaten but whilst that didn’t happen he comfortably won the world title for the second year in a row.
The gap was a lot bigger this time around as he defeated Rossi by a commanding 67 points, to clinch the title with three rounds to spare, and more records were broken including the ten successive wins at the beginning of the season and a year’s total of 13, which bettered the previous best of 12 set by Mick Doohan.
One of the highlights came at his home GP at Catalunya where he went head to head throughout the 25 laps with Rossi and team-mate Dani Pedrosa. It looked like the latter would come out on top but a thrilling and daring overtaking manoeuvre on the final lap gave Marquez the victory. And with brother Alex winning in Moto3, more history was made as they became the first brothers to win a Grand Prix on the same day.
2017 – Valencian Grand Prix, Valencia
Marquez wasn’t quite so dominant over the next couple of seasons, yielding his title to Jorge Lorenzo in 2015 before taking it back in 2016 and whilst his win tally failed to reach double figures in 2017, the Honda not as good in previous seasons, a fourth MotoGP crown was added to his ever-growing collection.
By now, Marquez was becoming as equally well-known for his miraculous front-end slides and saves as he was for his victories, somehow bringing the bike back from beyond the brink on a regular basis when many would have been on the ground. Some of his lean angles had never been seen before and had to be seen to be believed!
Nowhere was this more evident than at the final round of the season at Valencia where he needed five points to get the better of Andrea Dovizioso for the title. In typical Marquez style, finishing 11th was never in the equation and it was all-out for the win from the start.
He sat in second place for much of the race, tucked in behind Johann Zarco, but moved into the lead with seven laps to go but on the next lap he had a monumental slide as he tipped into the high-speed turn one. The front tucked and slid seemingly forever as he used his elbow, sliding along the tarmac in equal amounts, to pick the bike back up and avoid a crash.
It dropped him down the order but he re-grouped for third place and another podium but it was definitely a crash that never was. 27 crashes during the season though further highlighted the knife-edge he was continually riding on whether free practice, qualifying or in a race situation.
2019 – German Grand Prix, Sachsenring
Nowhere has Marquez excelled more than at the super-tight Sachsenring circuit in Germany where the anti-clockwise layout mirrors his preferred left-hand dirt track training.
At 2.2-miles, the Sachsenring is the shortest circuit on the GP calendar but Marquez has enjoyed it from the outset, his first win coming in his 125cc World Championship-winning season in 2010.
From that moment on, he’s never looked back with two more wins following in 2011 and 2012, this time on the Suter in Moto 2. It was a similar story in MotoGP where a staggering six successive wins were taken between 2013 and 2018.
He wasn’t done there either and in 2019 he dominated proceedings, taking pole position and then leading all the way in the race from the lights until the chequered flag. It was his tenth successive victory at the venue and, quite simply, a remarkable performance.
2019 – Thailand Grand Prix, Buriram
Marquez only failed to finish one of the 19 races in 2019 and in the other 18, he was not only on the podium in all of them (the most podiums ever in a season), he finished either first or second – 12 wins and six second place finishes.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though and Marquez had a clear weakness in his shoulder that continually dislocated despite having had surgery the previous winter on the troublesome joint. A huge high-side in Thailand didn’t damage his shoulder but did leave him battered and bruised elsewhere yet he still managed to win.
Two rounds later at Malaysia and he had another huge high-side in practice, this time injuring his other shoulder. He once more showed tremendous resilience to take second and wrapped up the season with victory at Valencia.
That all meant he once more took the MotoGP title – his fourth in a row and sixth in total – with four rounds to spare and with a record winning total of 420 points and a record margin of victory at the end of the year by a staggering 151 points!
Let’s hope his return, hopefully at Portimao in April, sees him demonstrating the turn of speed and daring we’ve all become so used to.