When you analyse the last decade of premier motorcycle racing, Marquez has unquestionably been the best rider on the grid having claimed six world titles. In turn, he has entered the discussion for potentially being the sport’s best ever rider. So, it fair to assign him that title?
Following his progression through the sport’s different variants, Marquez has written his name into the history books through becoming the first rider to win the title in a debut season since Kenny Roberts back in 1978. Perhaps even more impressively, in matching the American’s achievement, the Spanish-born rider set a new record for being the youngest ever world champion as he clinched the title aged 20.
Since his very first MotoGP championship win seven years ago, Marquez has gone on to win a further five titles, falling short only once in 2015 as Yamaha claimed a championship one-two with Jorge Lorenzo beating Valentino Rossi by five points. Following his disappointing third-place finish, the now 27-year-old responded emphatically by claiming four consecutive titles between 2016 and 2019.
It’s a testament to Marquez’s abilities that he can win championships in numerous different ways, showing his mental strength and hunger to be the best. In 2019, the Spaniard dominated as he ruthlessly recorded 12 wins. However, in the three years before that, he had to fend off Andrea Dovizioso and Rossi in more closely-contested battles. Going into the new season, Marquez will once again be the favourite in the betting odds as he seeks to level the Doctor’s record of five consecutive championship wins, which he achieved between 2001 and 2005.
How Does he Compare to Other Greats?
Despite being basic, some will argue that the most straightforward way to quantify who the best ever rider in MotoGP history is through the total number of top-tier championships won. In this regard, Marquez currently ranks third in the all-time list. At the time of writing, the Spaniard’s six 500cc titles puts him one behind Rossi and two behind the Doctor’s fellow Italian, Giacomo Agostini, who also happens to be the most decorated motorcycle rider ever.
However, while championships do aid the argument concerning the greatest of all time, they don’t tell the whole story. After Marquez claimed his sixth world title in the premier class, Neil Hodgson, the 2003 World Superbike champion, stated that he had never seen a person ride a bike like the 27-year-old Spaniard. Fundamentally, the Honda racer has time on his side, meaning that if he can continue his reign of dominance, then he could easily surpass both Agostini and Rossi in the coming years.
That said, it is somewhat problematic to compare the dominance of riders from different eras, with the technology constantly being developed. While there are no doubts that Marquez has been the best over the last decade, it’s easy to forget that Rossi won all his seven titles during the 2000s, showcasing the effects of time and potentially, among some, recency bias.
It’s in Marquez’s Hands
Ultimately, few will argue against Marquez cementing his status as the sport’s best ever rider if he is able to surpass the championship totals of Agostini and Rossi in the coming years. While there’s no doubting that his fan-friendly style of racing helps to enhance his reputation, championships will ultimately decide how he is perceived when he eventually walks away from MotoGP.