Marquez celebrating his title. At left, MotoGP great Valentino Rossi hailing the champion. AFP PHOTOS

Marquez celebrating his title. At left, MotoGP great Valentino Rossi hailing the champion. AFP PHOTOS

VALENCIA, Spain: Spanish sensation Marc Marquez is on a fast-track to greatness after dominating this year’s MotoGP in his record-shattering rookie season where he became the youngest-ever world champion at the age of 20.

His effortless transition to the premier class has staggered his Repsol Honda team and the sport’s greats as he took the MotoGP world crown on the final day of the season, keeping his nerve despite the late-season charge of defending world champion—and fellow Spaniard—Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez wrapped up the MotoGP world crown with third place at the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix, held two weekends ago, to make his signing as the replacement for Casey Stoner by Repsol Honda one of the most astute in recent times.

The youngster was expected to ease his way into the premier class and take a back seat to his more experienced teammate and compatriot, Dani Pedrosa. Yet Marquez beat Pedrosa to the podium in his first race at Qatar and then passed him for victory in the next race in Texas—breaking Freddie Spencer’s 31-year-old record for the youngest premier class winner. Five victories later the tyro was on his way to the championship.

By winning the world title in his debut MotoGP season, Marquez became the first rookie to clinch the premier class championship since Kenny Roberts in 1978.

Legends of the sport believe there are greater accomplishments ahead for Marquez, whose ‘93’ number emblazoned on his Repsol Honda, stands for the year of his birth.

“He has all the potential to become the greatest of all time, or better than me, or win more than me,” nine-time world champion and 106 GP winner Valentino Rossi said.

The 1987 500cc world champion, Wayne Gardner, called Marquez’s progress as “incredible” while 1993 champion Kevin Schwantz said he had never seen someone like the young Spaniard get up to speed on a MotoGP bike so quickly.

“Back in the day it used to take a couple of years to figure out how best to ride one of these bikes,” Schwantz said. “But Marquez has already shown a few characteristics that a lot of these guys don’t or might never have.”

Five-time title champion Mick Doohan said; “I’ve seen plenty come and go through the ranks and he’s up there with the best of them, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Even Repsol Honda has been pleasantly surprised by Marquez’s meteoric ascent.

“We expected him to be very fast, as he was from the very first test, but what has surprised us is how consistent he can be,” Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo said. “He has made the most of the situation and hasn’t felt the pressure.”

Marquez makes light of his transition from intermediate to premier-class racing.

“For me, it was more difficult moving from 125cc to Moto2 than Moto2 to MotoGP,” he said. “This year the team has helped me a lot. The first time I rode the bike, there were many things to control, I thought that I would never learn to ride the bike well; electronics, tires, brakes, the correct riding line, etc. Now I feel very good on the bike.

“I approach each GP weekend in the same way, without pressure, just to study and absorb as much information as possible.”

Marquez began riding in the world championship as a 15-year-old in 2008 and made the podium at Donington in his first season despite a shortened campaign due to injury. He blossomed in 2010 with 10 victories from 12 poles on his way to the 125cc world championship title, graduating to Moto2 the following year.

Things didn’t go smoothly and he crashed out of the first two rounds before winning at Le Mans in round four on the way to six more victories, until a crash in practice at the Malaysian GP prematurely ended his season.

Marquez had vision problems after another crash in the 2012 pre-season before he charged through the season with nine victories to win the world Moto2 championship by 56 points. He then moved up to MotoGP this year, and promptly wrote history.



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