After taking back-to-back wins in Jerez and Le Mans, the combination of Marquez and Honda is looking unstoppable, yet again.
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It was business as usual in Jerez and Le Mans. Marc Marquez got back to winning ways in both the rounds, while the rest trailed in the wake of the reigning world champion. The Repsol Honda rider now leads the championship ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso. And if he continues this stellar form, he will have eight championship titles by the end of this season. And at just 26 years of age!
There’s no denying that Marquez is a cut above the rest, and if anyone argues against this, they can be rightfully termed as delusional. But what’s worrying for his rivals this year is the fact that Honda has upped their game, too. You see, in the past – especially in 2016 and 2017 – Marquez rode around the problems and shortcomings of his motorcycle. But this year, Honda has evidently produced a package that Marquez feels is the ‘best overall’. And with this new package, he’s been able to take the fight to the mighty Ducati in a more confident manner.
The acceleration of the Honda has improved, and so has the top-speed, which means Marquez is not taking unnecessary risks – primarily at braking points, where Marquez used to push and abuse the front-end of his RCV deeper and deeper to make for the time lost on straights and corner exits against Ducati. But with enough poke from the engine in a straight line, he is not doing it any more. And fewer risks mean an even faster Marquez – not good news for his rivals. In fact, given the relentless and ruthless manner in which he’s been winning races this year, the rest of the grid can only hope and pray for a mistake from him. Which actually happened in Austin, when Marquez crashed out of the lead and scored a DNF. If it weren’t for that mistake, Marquez would have won four out of the five rounds in 2019, with a lead of over 30 points.
The question is, can anyone stop Marquez from clinching his sixth MotoGP championship this year? Well, yes, there are a few contenders who can take occasional wins, but what they lack is consistency. And that’s Marquez’s strong point. If you look at his rivals, only Dovizioso comes close to matching his level of consistency, which is why he’s second in the championship right now. Valentino Rossi sure was in the hunt in the first three races, but he’s since fallen down the order. Suzuki and Alex Rins have shown great progress so far – Rins won the Americas GP while he was second behind Marquez in Jerez. But at Le Mans, the Suzuki rider couldn’t produce the same magic and finished the race in 10th. However, amidst all this, there’s one more name that has cropped up as a new and rising challenger to Marquez’s reign. It’s the French rookie, Fabio Quartararo. The Petronas Yamaha rider hit the headlines in Jerez when he grabbed his maiden pole position. He not only beat Marquez fair and square in qualifying but also became the youngest-ever pole-sitter in MotoGP, dethroning Marquez. In the race, he looked promising enough to take his first podium finish, if not a race win. But owing to a mechanical failure, he was forced to retire. In his home race at Le Mans, he qualified way down the order. But even then, his race pace was closely matched to Marquez. In fact, he was the fastest Yamaha rider in the race, but he couldn’t quite fight for the podium, owing to his poor qualifying. Given his potential, you can’t help but wonder what will happen if gets a factory ride. He’s young, fast and hungry, and if given the right tools, he can challenge Marquez later on in the season and probably in the years to come.
Next races will be interesting, though, especially on tracks that favour the raw power of Ducati. Can they finally stop Marquez, or will Honda, with its new and improved package, come out on top? Only time will tell. Expectations are high from Suzuki and Rins as well, and they’ll certainly be in the podium hunt. As for Yamaha, they sure have improved compared to last year, but a win is still looking unlikely, especially in the coming round of Mugello. Speaking of Mugello, this can also be a turning point for Jorge Lorenzo. He hasn’t got up to speed so far this season, but since Mugello is one of his favourite tracks – remember he took his first Ducati win here in 2018 – he can also join the rest of the grid to chase and try to challenge Marquez before he disappears into the horizon.