When Casey Stoner called time on his MotoGP career 12 months ago, two thoughts began to occupy the headspace of many motor sport enthusiasts.
Firstly, how the 2013 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix would be impacted without Stoner’s presence, and secondly, how much (if at all) weaker the Repsol Honda outfit would be heading into the new season, especially compared to its championship rival Yamaha.
The former certainly became a reality, as the Australian Grand Prix struggled to generate its usual attendance figures, however the latter could not have been further from reality. The Repsol Honda motorcycle team has excelled in 2013 and looks stronger than ever, thanks largely to the recruitment of Marc Marquez.
The Spaniard, who has only just waved away his teenage years, has stolen the hearts of the MotoGP public as he pursues an extraordinary world championship in his rookie season. If he is to secure the championship, Marquez would become the first rider since 1978 to be crowned champion at his maiden attempt.
Marquez has never been short of talent – winning both Moto3 and Moto2 classes in 2010 and 2012 respectively – but the critics certainly came out in force when Honda announced he would be partnering the ever reliable Dani Pedrosa in 2013. Pedrosa, who would have been somewhat relieved to see the back of Stoner, has again been forced to play the supporting act – this time to compatriot Marquez.
And what a sublime lead role Marquez has played.
At just 20 years of age – 14 years younger than champion rival Valentino Rossi – Marquez has defied the odds and re-written the history books with a record eight pole positions, six wins and 14 podium finishes for a debutant, in what has truly been a remarkable rookie season.
A cenar y descansar bien para hacer una buena clasificación mañana! 😉 / To dinner & rest well to make a good quali!! pic.twitter.com/AClMGqNCeP
— Marc Márquez (@marcmarquez93) September 27, 2013
He may be the furthest from home when in Australia, but Marquez seemed to adopt to the demands of the Phillip Island circuit as if Casey Stoner himself had offered a couple of lessons as a parting Honda gift. Only a laughable decision to shorten the race length and introduce a mandatory bike change mid-race caught Marquez off guard, and cost him the chance to seal the world championship at the Island. His disqualification from the event has now catapulted Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo back into world championship contention and could prove a critical error in a month’s time.
While he is an aggressor on circuit, in the paddock he is as gracious as they come. It’s here he also demonstrates his other champion-like qualities.
He greets guests with a cheesy smile, akin to Formula 1’s Daniel Ricciardo, but his head remains grounded at all times. It is as if he too cannot believe what life has thrown in his direction.
While it may be the boldest of calls, Marquez looks the Ayrton Senna equivalent on two wheels. And like the Brazilian Formula 1 legend, Marquez is not interested in the politics surrounding his sport, only the purest form of racing, wheel to wheel.
For this, fans already adore him.
Valentino Rossi, enjoy your records while you can; there is a new kid on the block and he is hungry for success.
(Photo: Twitter – @marcmarquez93)