We’re now at the half-way point of what has been a gripping MotoGP season. It’s been the full package: thrilling races, unpredictable events and captivating rivalries and there’s another nine races still to go.
Pre-season most commentators were predicting a Jorge Lorenzo versus Dani Pedrosa duel with super-rookie Marc Marquez quick enough to race the pair sporadically, but too crash-prone to challenge through the season.
However, at the half-way mark, Marquez leads Lorenzo and Pedrosa and remains the only one of the three without major injuries.
This fact is despite Marquez’s trademark lunges into each and every corner he rides into. Time after time he hurtles into corners at speeds and angles which even Lorenzo and Pedrosa can’t, and only once has he ended up in the gravel during a race.
It was a style he used on his journey up the lower ranks of the sport and through into Moto2. But on 1000cc beasts such as his Honda RC213V, this style is spectacularly difficult to master.
Yet his mistake at the very end of the Italian Grand Prix is also the only reason why Marquez doesn’t have a 100% podium record, an astonishing achievement.
Lorenzo and Pedrosa are desperately unlucky to have succumbed to bad shoulder injuries as their form prior to their incidents was very impressive.
Lorenzo has three wins and Pedrosa has two yet staying on the bike is an important facet of the two wheeled form of racing.
The Spanish duo’s injuries have opened up the podium battles for the past two races though, and Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi and Stefan Bradl have stepped into the limelight.
Rossi keeps promising that his old form is just masked by inadequacies of his Yamaha’s set up and his Assen win was a glorious reminder of what can happen when he gets it right. However, the other eight races have clearly shown that Rossi is just a little step back from the youngsters he’s racing.
As uncomfortable as it may be to talk about the inimitable Italian like that, he is the only top rider in his thirties and age eventually shows its mark even on the very best.
Fifth in the championship is Britain’s promising Cal Crutchlow. In his third season and on a satellite Yamaha, therefore a less developed bike than Rossi’s, Crutchlow often has strong races. He needs to just put a few more parts of the jigsaw together, the biggest piece being better early race pace, and he could become a regular winner.
The only rider outside of this top five to get a podium is Stefan Bradl, who went from an impressive pole position to finish runner-up at Laguna Seca.
After a worrying start to the season, after which Honda began to lose faith in the German leading to the team not signing a contract extension, Bradl’s form has improved drastically in the past two races. This performance jump seems strongly correlated with a decision to change brake pads and it would be unwise now for Honda to abandon this exciting prospect.
However, Honda have another exciting prospect who they believe can lead them to a full era of glory: Marc Marquez.
The hype around Marquez can appear overblown to some; many correctly argue that he is indeed on what seems to be the best bike on the grid. But to those who deny Marquez some respect need to have a little glance at the history books. Valentino Rossi, seven times the champion, began his career in 2000 on one of the best bikes. He took two victories, something Marquez has already surpassed, and finished second in the championship.
Whether it’s a last corner barge at Jerez or a motocross style overtake at the Corkscrew, Laguna Seca, Marquez appears able to do whatever Rossi could.
One thing Rossi didn’t achieve however was a rookie-year championship, something Marquez is currently hurtling towards.