CHESTE, Spain (AFP) – A six-time world champion at just 24, Spain’s baby-faced assassin motorcyclist Marc Marquez is on course to become the greatest rider of all-time after securing a fourth MotoGP title in five seasons on home soil in Valencia on Sunday.
Only three men in Italian duo Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi and Australia’s Michael Doohan with eight, seven and five premier category titles respectively now have more than Marquez.
Holding a commanding 21-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso heading into the final race of the season, Marquez knew just an 11th place finish would be enough to retain his world championship at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
However, true to style and backing up his daring pre-race talk, Marquez refused to play safe and even put his title at risk by sliding off the track as he fought Johann Zarco for the race lead eight laps from the end.
“You know it was Marquez-style until the end,” the Honda rider joked after finishing third.
Indeed, not including his Sunday spin, Marquez defied 27 crashes or falls throughout the course of the season to still always bounce back.
His aggressive daredevil style and success has quickly seen him overtake Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo as the most popular rider in motorcycling mad Spain.
“When he sees an opportunity, he struggles to restrain himself,” championship rival Dovizioso conceded.
A champion at three different categories, Marquez’s rise to the top has been a rapid one.
He became the youngest ever premier class championship winner as 20-year-old in his debut season in MotoGP and coasted to his second title a year later.
However, he gained just as much notoriety for a controversial bust up with his former hero turned rival Rossi in 2015.
Rossi’s bid for a long-awaited 10th world title was derailed after he kicked Marquez off his bike as the pair battled for position in the penultimate race of the season.
The Italian legend was relegated to the back of the grid for the season finale and, despite being out of the running himself, Marquez further aided Lorenzo’s route to the title by finishing between the Yamaha pair.
“He has won his fight, he made me lose the championship,” Rossi blasted at the time.
Now, though, Rossi’s fight will be holding off a rampant Marquez overtaking him in the list of the sport’s all-time greats.
In contrast to his previous three MotoGP championships, Marquez recovered from a slow start as just one race win in the first eight Grand Prixs left him fourth in the standings.
However, a stunning late summer run to win five of the next eight races left him in a commanding position.
“We was in a very unfavourable position in pre-season and the first few races, but through hard work he knew how to turn the situation around,” said Emilio Alzamora, a former 125cc world champion himself, who took Marquez under his wing at just 10-years-old.
“What he has achieved is incredible.”
Born in Cervera, Catalonia, little over an hour’s drive from Barcelona, Marquez dodged tricky questions over the region’s drive for independence from Spain as easily as he has his rivals on the track.
Instead of choosing either the Spanish or Catalan flags to celebrate his triumph, he completed a lap of honour with his race number 93 emblazoned on a red backdrop.
“The flag which represents my people is the 93 one,” he responded when pressed by reporters.