American legend Kenny Roberts believes Marc Marquez can dominate MotoGP for years after the Repsol Honda revelation clinched a historic maiden MotoGP world title in 2013.
Marquez became the first rookie since Californian Roberts in 1978 to capture the premier class crown in the first attempt when he finished third in front of a sell-out crowd at Valencia last month.
Roberts won two more titles after his breakthrough success and he believes Marquez has the potential to be the new formidable force in MotoGP.
Roberts, who ended British legend Barry Sheene’s reign as MotoGP world champion in ’78, spoke exclusively to MCN about Marquez and he said: “From what I’ve seen of him this season he is a pretty amazing guy. Ability wise I don’t think there is any question he can dominate the sport now.
In terms of ability I just don’t see anything holding him back. He’s over exuberant about it and I can’t see anything that’s going to upset him and stop him dominating the sport. He is very enthusiastic and he loves what he is doing and that is going to be a hard combination to beat. He is doing it because it is fun. Until somebody puts him into a position where it isn’t fun you are not going to stop him.”
Like many people closely connected to MotoGP, Roberts admits he was surprised with the consistency that has carried Marquez to the title, with the Spaniard scoring 16 podiums in 18 races.
The only race in which he crashed was out of second position in the closing stages of the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello and Roberts said: “I thought consistency might be his problem. As with all rookies we have seen come up and set the world on fire initially, they have then jumped off the thing a lot to the point where it took them a year or two to stay on long enough to win the championship.”
Recalling his charge to history back in 1978, Roberts said he was like Marquez and had not gone into his first season in the premier class with any expectation that he could be a contender for the crown.
Roberts, who is now 62, said: “There was nowhere near the limelight and attention on me as there has been on him. But we are talking over 30 years ago when you didn’t have to deal with all the press and other s**t he has to deal with. When I got asked if I could be world champion in 1978 I said of course I can be. I never boasted I was going to do it but I said I could be. I felt my ability was good as anybody’s, so when I got asked I said I felt I could be world champion.
I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t be but when you have that kind of talent, you can downplay it all you want but you know inside what you can do and it must have been the same for Marc. I never bragged I was going to be number one but the bottom line is I never questioned my ability to ride a bike better than anybody else and if I got beat I always analysed why and I think he does that too. I was always working out what I could do to be faster and better."
Having taken 35 years for his rookie record to be beaten, triple world 500cc champion Roberts said he wasn’t shocked that nobody had beaten his record before last weekend considering some of the talent that has followed his era.
“It is not something I wake up thinking about and it has come around more this year because my name has been associated with Marquez. When you look back at all the combinations that have tried, including the 500s when it was a very difficult period to ride them, it was never easy to do it. It is just a different era coming from 600cc four-strokes to 1000 four-strokes than it was going from a 250 to a 500 two-stroke. And the biggest difference was Michelin tyres.
I remember with (Jean-Michel) Bayle at Yamaha, he fell off coming out T1 at Jerez twice on an out lap. That was an era when a race tyre took three laps to come in. Now the tyres are great compared to what we had and they come in right away and they have feel. This is another era where you come with a lot of corner speed and a lot of grip, but Marc is one of the few guys that can slide the bike when he needs to and that’s the difference. The bike does what he wants it to do when he wants it to do it and he does it when he wants to do it. If he was on a Ducati it would be a totally different deal but sometimes the right guy on the right bike comes a long.”