It’s February 20, 2014 and Marc Marquez is grimacing in a crumpled heap after falling off his flat-
track bike while training near his home in Lleida, west of Barcelona.
The infectious grin has been wiped off his face as the pain starts to kick in. The 21-year-old has broken his right leg precisely four weeks before he is due to begin the defence of his MotoGP crown in Qatar.
Marquez isn’t fully fit, has missed two thirds of pre-season testing, yet he turns up in the Doha desert and kicks sand in the face of his rivals by claiming pole position and the race victory.
You know what happened next. Eight more wins on the bounce and Marquez has smashed records virtually every time he’s departed the Repsol Honda garage.
Should his domination continue when the paddock returns from its summer break at Indianapolis, he could successfully have defended his crown with four races remaining by the Aragon round in late September.
He’s the undisputed new poster boy of MotoGP. Mind-blowingly fast and fearless on track, he oozes the same star quality as Valentino Rossi.
And before he headed off on his summer holidays to sit by the pool and reflect on his historic start to 2014, MCN managed to grab a world exclusive chat with the MotoGP marvel.
Marquez on racing
If we’d seen you in hospital in February and said ‘it’s all cool, you’ll win the first nine races’, what would you have said?
“I’d have said you are completely crazy (laughs) but thanks a lot for having so much confidence in me. But I never would have believed that I could win all nine races. You can expect to win four or five in the best case scenario, but to win all nine has been incredible.”
What were your realistic targets for this stage of the season?
“My only target was to arrive at the summer break leading the championship. I expected a stronger Jorge and I didn’t expect my own level to be so high. I expected a victory in Austin after 2013 and also at Le Mans – on tracks that I really like.
"But I didn’t expect to win nine races and what has been great is I’ve won in all different circumstances. I’ve won at night in Qatar, won on a new track in Argentina, won on the last lap, won a flag-to-flag in Assen and won from the pit lane in Germany.”
Which was the best of the nine?
“Catalunya was special. It is my home track and the race was amazing because I was fighting with Jorge, Valentino and Dani and my brother Alex won in Moto3, so it was the best feeling.”
Is there not even a little part of you now that is thinking you can win all 18 races?
“I have won nine and I didn’t expect that and, as always, I will try and win every race. My next target is to win in Indy but I don’t know if it is possible to win all 18. Anything can happen.”
Have you been surprised at how fast Valentino has been and how difficult it has been for Jorge?
“The great surprise at the start of the season was Valentino. His level was so high, although we saw him struggle a little bit more in Germany. But in
Assen he was so strong. It looks Jorge is coming back, I think he will be stronger in the second half of the season.”
The first person you want to beat is your team-mate, so how do you think Dani feels when you always win?
“I can’t explain it because I’ve never had that feeling. When I had a team-mate I have always been lucky to be the fastest, even going back to when I was in the Spanish championship.
"You always want to be first, and the first person you want to beat is your team-mate. I think for Dani it was probably harder last year when I won in the early races and I was a rookie. But we have a really good relationship and we go to dinner.”
How different is the Marc Marquez now compared to this time last year?
“What I feel on the track is I have much more experience and I am using that. I am still only 21 and still make some mistakes but this is normal because I am young and sometimes I push more than I should.
"But now I can feel where the limit is much more. Last year I was just fast without having good feedback from the bike. But this year I can feel that I am at the limit before a crash.”
Kevin Schwantz says you have got inside the heads of your rivals. Do you deliberately play the psychological war?
“The mentality you have on the bike is really important because if you are confident and feel you are stronger than the rest, then everything is easier. The best way to attack your rivals is with the results.
"There is no point saying something in a press conference and besides we are speaking about
Valentino, Jorge and Dani who have a lot of experience and they know what they need to listen to and what they need to forget. The best way to play is to show your strength on the track.”
Rossi was your idol, but now he says you could be the greatest in history, how does that feel?
“It is really impressive when you hear that from Valentino because he is one of the most important riders. But it is not only Valentino. I have seen comments from Doohan, Agostini, Nieto, Spencer and a lot of legends.
"That makes me really happy but it also extra pressure. But to hear what they are saying gives me more confidence because if they say that it is for a reason. They are not just saying it for the sake of it.”
Are you still getting better?
“Every year you improve. Last year in a few races I felt on the limit and it was impossible to be faster. But this year I arrive at the same tracks and I am faster straight away. I can always improve with Honda. When you get to one level and need some help to go faster, you need Honda.
"But also they need help, so I can improve my riding style to help them. This year’s chassis is much better for my riding style and there is no specific point I would like to improve. But Jorge is still so consistent and I think I can improve in that area.”
Do you think you will do what Rossi did and try to win with a different brand?
“Right now I would say ‘no’. I will continue with Honda for two more years and I like being with them, I feel so good but I can’t say now that I will never try to ride for somebody else. But if you ask me now I will say I will spend my whole career with Honda.”
There’s been talk you might be doing both MotoGP and Moto2 in Valencia if you’ve won the title, is that true?
“Nothing is impossible. And why not?”
Do rule changes for 2016 worry you?
“Of course I want to keep everything the same (laughs). It is going to be interesting to try the Michelins, and the new electronics will be more production based. In the end it will be the rider that will make the difference.”
You had the fastest crash in history at Mugello last year, and now there is talk that the bikes are too fast, do you agree?
“For the show and for the fans it is not necessary for us to be hitting 350kph (210mph). 320 or 333kph (190mph) is enough and if you are watching from the side of the track you can’t tell the difference.
"It is interesting to think about how we can reduce speeds and I think it will be good for the riders too. Now at the end of the straight the bikes are doing an incredible speed. Sometimes you can’t help thinking ‘what would happen if I crashed now?’.”
Marquez – off the trac
So if crashing at nearly 210mph doesn’t scare you, what does?
“I am really scared of the sea and it is impossible for me to go on a boat! If I am on a beach and the water is really clear and calm and I can see the bottom and what is all around then it is not a problem. But when I go out a bit further I get scared. I keep thinking something is going to come and take me.”
Is it difficult for you to go for a walk in public or go to the supermarket?
“Last year when I arrived in MotoGP it was already a little bit hard but this year it is impossible for me to have a normal life in Spain. But that’s life. I have a lot of fans and I understand that it is difficult to be a normal guy, even if sometimes you would really like to be.
"But it’s also a special feeling when the people stop you in the street. When I am driving I always keep my sunglasses on, but people still recognise me and want to shake my hand. I sit at traffic lights and look straight ahead but they are always recognising me.
"It makes me feel I have a big responsibility, especially with the children. I am their hero and it is strange but they are looking at me a lot and it is a big responsibility.”
You seem good at everything, what was the last thing you were rubbish at?
“It has to be on the PlayStation and I am always so angry with my brother because he is always beating me. It is MotoGP, FIFA, car racing, but everything we do, Alex is stronger.
"Also there is a motocross game you can play on the iPhone and Dani (Pedrosa) is always one or 1.5s faster than me. I get angry because you can see the times online, and I know his nickname and can always see that he is faster than me!”
Who are the most famous three people in your phone contacts?
“Rafa Nadal (tennis champion), Andres Iniesta (Spanish, European and World Cup footballer) and Fernando Alonso (F1 world champion). That’s not so bad.”
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
“Nadal would be invited because we speak a lot on WhatsApp but we’ve never had time to have a proper sit down.
"Iniesta, my brother Alex, my lifelong best friend Edgar Donaare and we would need somebody who could put on a great show, so Cal Crutchlow can come and tell some jokes.”
If there is one person dead or alive that you would love to meet, who would it be?
“I would like to meet Neymar or Lionel Messi (both Barcelona football players). I really like Neymar.”
Apart from your trophies, what is your most prized possession?
“The thing I have that is the most valuable to me is my first ever bike. It is nice because I have a lot of the bikes at home that have played such a big part in getting me to where I am today.
"I have my first motocross bike, my first road racing bike. I have to say this quietly but my first bike was a Yamaha Peewee 50.”
If you were a team manager now, which two young riders would you sign?
“I have to say my brother. The other one is very difficult to say because you have Vinales, Folger, Miller and Fenati who are all very fast. But if I had to take one it would be Folger because in a good team he would have high potential.”
If there was one bike in history you could race, which one would it be?
“Maybe the last NSR500 to win the championship. This was the best evolution of the 500s and I would have liked to try a 500. And the two-strokes made a great noise.”
If there is one rider in history who you could be team-mates with, who would it be?
“Mick Doohan. To me he has always looked the strongest rider to beat. Even in the tests he didn’t like being beaten and in the races he was so fast from the first lap.”
If you could take any girl out on the world on a date, which one would it be?
“I am going to say my mum and then I can stay out of trouble.”
If we gave you a ticket to fly any where in the world, where would you go?
“Cancun or the Maldives. The Maldives is really beautiful.”
If you could play any character in a movie, who would it be and why?
“I am not sure who it would be, but I wouldn’t be a good boy. I would be a villain because people always saying I am good boy and sometimes I want to be on the other side.”
Do you swear in front of your parents?
“I never roll out the big ones. Sometimes in a situation I might let s**t slip out but I never use the big ones. I can save the F-word for the box.”
If you had to give up girls or bikes tomorrow, which one would it be?
“Wow, that is a difficult one. Maybe I would stick with bikes because I like all of them and they never complain!”