Rossi and Marquez – giants, and how to measure them

04th November 2019
Michael Scott

Marc Marquez is not, at just over 5ft six and 65 kg (ten stone, three pounds), particularly large. But there can be no argument. In the pantheon of motor sport, he is a giant. He has underlined that stature again in 2019, breaking yet more records for a wonderfully assured sixth championship in seven seasons in the premier MotoGP class.


One of them is to become the youngest-ever six-times champion. He was already the youngest-ever five-timer, four-timer, and so on, back to the youngest-ever title winner back in 2013, when he became the first class rookie champion since the legendary Kenny Roberts, back in 1978.

Another is in the number of points garnered over 18 races. On Sunday in Malaysia, 20 more lifted his total to 396, 13 more than Jorge Lorenzo chalked up in 2010 (prior to 2007 there were never more than 17 races).


Much more impressive than these numbers, however, is that over the first 18 races (as I write there is still one to go) Marquez not only won 11 of them, but he finished all but one of them, and was never lower than second.

The reason this is so impressive is the level and closeness of the competition. Rule changes over recent years have effectively dumbed down development. Control tyres were one step, much more important was control electronics, first the hardware, and from 2016 the software as well.

This has resulted not only in some of the closest finishing margins in history, but a whole slew of them. In 2016, over the full 18-races, there were just two inside winning margins inside one second. In 2017 eight, in 2018 six, and in 2019 (also over 18) there have also been eight, and would have been nine had Vinales not crashed with two corners to go in Australia.


The exceptional thing this year is that, as Marquez put it, previously “the difference between the bikes was greater.” In 2013, only Honda and Yamaha won races. “This year, four bikes have been capable of winning [Suzuki and Ducati had joined the gang]. But we were always there.”

Some think he has already ousted Rossi as the Greatest of All Time; but this is somewhat premature – particularly since Rossi is still an active rider, and in his own mind at least hasn’t finished winning yet.


There was another remarkable statistic this year, clocked up by Rossi. The one-time teenage sensation, later dominant rider and nowadays elder statesman (at 40 the oldest on the grid) clocked up 400 starts at the Australian GP in October, having already long since eclipsed the previous record of 328, set by Loris Capirossi, who retired in 2011. (Dovizioso, still active, is next, with 312 at the time of writing.)

Considering Rossi’s prowess plus the length of his career – 24 years and counting, and 20 in 500cc/MotoGP – it’s not surprising he is the winningest rider in the premier class, with 89 wins, ahead of Agostini (68).

But Marquez, in the top class for just seven years, is third, with 55, one more than previous third-placer Mick Doohan.


On paper, this might make it look as though he is already eclipsing Rossi. But there is another statistic that might comfort the huge battalions of Rossi fans – many of whom are still nowadays prone to boo Marquez when he stands on the top step of the podium.

It might be more than two years since his last win, and his premier-class average may have dropped to 26.25 percent, while Marquez’s stands at 44. But in Rossi’s last championship year of 2009, his was better – 46.1 percent. This figure alone puts his stature into proportion, compared with the new upstart.

Both of these are contracted, Marquez to Honda and Rossi to Yamaha, until the end of 2020; Marquez is already negotiating renewal of his contract thereafter, and is still building his tower of statistics.

Rossi? No commitment yet, but he did say in Malaysia that in spite of the lack of wins, he is still feeling competitive, and “I’m enjoying racing much more than when I had two years with no wins with Ducati”. Long-time racing observers know there is one truth … never rule out Valentino.


But neither of these giants can escape another fact – the conveyor belt of history. It was mostly Mike Hailwood’s “youngest-ever” records that Marquez broke, having first disposed of Freddie Spencer’s (the American was only twice premier-class champion).

Marquez, still playing on-track psychological games with Valentino, found a new partner for this side-line this year. Fabio Quartararo, just 20, burst into the premier class and has racked up five pole positions and six top-three finishes, two of them while leading Marquez all the way until the final lap.

Marquez covertly acknowledged the threat by embarking on a teasing “follow-my-leader” game with Quartararo in Malaysia … and fell off good and hard in the process. A significant moment?


  • MotoGP

  • Marc Marquez

  • Valentino Rossi

  • Honda

  • Yamaha

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