Repsol Honda’s Marc Márquez has big boots to fill as he makes his eagerly anticipated debut in motorcycle racing’s premiere class replacing retired double world champion Casey Stoner in the factory HRC squad.
The young Spaniard, who will turn 20 years old on February 17, has had a rapid rise through the ranks becoming 125cc world champion in 2010 and Moto2 champion last year. At the recent MotoGP group test he immediately impressed with his lap time’s mixing-it with established stars Jorge Lorenzo, teammate Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi.
Marquez’s riding style, almost gravity defying corner lean angles and sensitive feel for the RC213V too caught the eye and reminded some, including HRC chiefs, of the retired Australian champion. Many fans and pundits are expecting Marquez to shine this year and are not so much as predicting “if” he can win races but when he will win and how many victories he can claim?
Even Valentino Rossi said recently that he expects the rookie to be in the mix for wins and believes he may also be eyeing a tilt at the championship in his rookie season. This could of course be cunning mind games from the Italian legend but many would also agree with his sentiments.
Following the Sepang test and as we await the next MotoGP group test in Malaysia on February 25-28 I caught-up with Marc to find out his thoughts on the coming season and also life away from the track.
James: Marc, there is a lot to learn in your first year in the premiere class, new bike, electronic systems, Bridgestone tyres etc, how are you finding the learning process with all of these elements so far?
Marc - “With the help of Honda HRC and all the technical staff I’m gradually learning all the aspects of MotoGP. Step by step we’re trying new elements of the bike, but there’s still a long way to go. At this moment, the bike leads me and we have to work hard to lead the bike. We have to take advantage of all the tests and ride the maximum, kilometers and more kilometers.”
James: Have you had to change your physical training in any way to prepare for your rookie season?
Marc: “This winter I have been working really hard in physical training. I combined cycling with my mountain bike, running, gym, etc. It was important to increase my weight to have more physical power to ride the MotoGP bike. I think that we improved a lot, but we have to continue working hard these months before the championship starts. In the first test I feel quite good, but always it’s better to have more physical power.”
James: There is a tremendous amount of excitement and expectation from fans and media surrounding your move-up to MotoGP this year, have you felt this at all, does this create any added pressure?
Marc: “I noticed this but now I’m focused on the pre-season and to ride at the maximum to be 100% adapted to the MotoGP machine, that it’s not easy. For me, everything is new and I have to learn a lot.”
James: The RC213V looks to be super competitive again, what do you see as its strengths so far?
Marc: “It’s true that it’s a competitive bike and you can see it in the first tests, but now I’m at the point of learning and I can’t make the most of the bike at the moment.”
James: You seem to be a very quick learner and were setting very competitive times from the first day at the Sepang test. You had your first race simulation too, how did that go?
Marc: “My main objective now is get used to the bike and to the new category. I have had good times, but this doesn’t mean anything at the moment.
There are so many things to learn in this category. The most important thing now is to focus on the 3 tests and arrive at the first race as prepared as possible.”
James: You had a small crash though on the last day, can you tell us what happened?
Marc: “Yes, it was just a small crash. I still don’t know the limits of the bike and to go fast we have to find it. I notice that if the bike is not well prepared and ready then it’s heavy and it’s easier to crash.”
James: Other than that, what were some of the surprises and lessons you took away from Sepang?
Marc: “The main lesson is that the top riders in MotoGP have a very high level and I’m really impressed with the high performance of my team - Repsol Honda, the engineers and all the team are extremely knowledgeable. You really notice that it is an excellent team and this will help me to progress in the category.”
James: What are your goals for the next test?
Marc: “Just to continue to learn all the bike aspects and above all control the bike little by little and ride it more comfortably.”
James: Valentino (Rossi) says he’s been impressed with how you have handled yourself in the premiere class so far and said this recently: “I expect - and said three or four months ago - that Marquez can fight for victory from the start of the season. But I like his attitude a lot because in his mind, looking at him today, it looks like he wants to win the championship at the first try. This is good.” What are your thoughts on his comments?
Marc: “It’s an honour that a rider such as Valentino says such positive things about me, but my focus still remains on what level I can reach by Qatar. It’s true that this first year I would like to fight with top riders in some races, but I expect this in the middle-end of the year.”
James: Did you have any hero’s growing-up and who has inspired you the most in your life so far?
Marc: “My two examples were Valentino (Rossi) and also Dani (Pedrosa), as when I started I was little like him!”
James: Now, just for fun, let’s get to know another side of you. When you have a rare day off, what’s your favourite way to spend the day?
Marc: “I love to practice MX with my motocross bike and dirt-track. Also mountain biking is one of my favorite hobbies and is very useful to train. When I have time, I also like to spend time with my friends.”
James: Do you have any favourite movies, actors or actresses?
Marc: “Action and thriller movies in general, not one special. Favourite actor, Will Smith and actress, Penélope Cruz.”
James: What was the last movie you went to see?
Marc: “Django, directed by Quentin Tarantino.”
James: How about music, what do you like to listen too?
Marc: “Pop rock.”
James: We know how talented you are on two wheels, what other talents do you have that we don’t know about?
Marc: “I don’t know… my passion and what I love to do is ride bikes.”
I would like to thank Rhys Edwards at Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) for his assistance in arranging this interview with Marc. You can find out more information on Honda, their award winning vehicles and racing activities on their global website Honda Worldwide, http://world.honda.com/ By James Foreman