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In Pit Lane – Unexpect the expected | Columns | Gassit Garage

Márquez’s 2016 season has been that of … not a different rider, but certainly a much changed version of the same rider

Márquez’s 2016 season has been that of … not a different rider, but certainly a much changed version of the same rider

They say one should always expect the unexpected. Nobody expected Márquez to secure his third MotoGP title at Motegi. Even were he to win, he needed Rossi to finish 15th or worse and Lorenzo lower than fourth.

All three happened: Márquez won, and both of his rivals crashed out. Game over. Whether anyone expected it or not.

The phrase can also be inverted – and needs to be – for a talent like Márquez. The way things stand, to stay interested for the next couple of years, we need to unexpect the expected.

We need to expect him not to win, so we can be surprised when he does.

Márquez arrived as a callow youth in 2013, two smaller-class titles in his cabinet, his 21st birthday still almost a year away, and already too fast for the others. Blazed to two titles with a win-or-crash style that more usually resulted in the former.

In 2015 it went the other way, and he paid the price, the title going to the more consistent Lorenzo. It was an expensive way, he said at Motegi, to learn a valuable lesson. Steady scoring is a more reliable way of winning championships than flashing or crashing.

In this way, his 2016 season has been that of … not a different rider, but certainly a much changed version of the same rider.

He still has his special gifts – all reminiscent of the rider he displaced on all the ‘youngest-ever’ lists that matter, the formerly Fast Freddie Spencer. These can be summed up succinctly: he can crash, without falling off. Not every time, anyway; and it is a technique he uses to locate the giddy limit with great precision.

In 2016 he changed (in one of his favourite terms) his ‘mentality’. He would push to and beyond the limit in practice, always prepared to fall off, then pull back a bit in the races. He was “prepared to accept coming second”.

It is the times he found the limit, went over it, and didn’t fall off that mark him out as the special one. He has added to his history of unbelievable saves several times this year.

As at Brno. The front went, and he was effectively down and sliding towards the gravel, for a long, long time. With elbow and knee he picked it up again. It was not his first such at Brno, and not his biggest miracle either, he thought. The slide was long, he allowed, but “but the angle of the bike was 67.5º,” he said. “In 2014 it was more than 68º.”

I asked Rossi if he could have saved it. He was full of amused admiration. Márquez could because of his position on the bike and his talent, he said. As for himself, “I go slower so I don’t lose the front.”

Going slower, however, is not going to work when Marc is about. Especially the new grown-up version.

Up to the race at Phillip Island, on a bike that still has some shortcomings, and certainly started the year with clearly visible problems accelerating, he has won five races.

More impressively, he is the only rider to score points in every single race. Even with his one race crash at Le Mans, he got back on for 13th. One of only four occasions that he was not on the podium.

The previous young genius, the marvellously talented Spencer, blazed bright but quickly burned out. In retrospect, there were warnings. Freddie had a history of not turning for tests, and the like. It seems he had everything except sufficient obsession. A bit too human, perhaps.

Márquez has shown no such signs so far.

Looks like Rossi’s time as successor to Hailwood as Greatest Of All Time might be short-lived.

But I for one shall try not to expect it.

Marquez, Japanese MotoGP Race 2016

Marquez, Japanese MotoGP Race 2016