Laureus Academy Member Mick Doohan believes the rivalry between Spanish riders Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo – which continues on their home soil on Sunday – could define the next five years of MotoGP.
Laureus Ambassador Marquez won back-to-back world championships in 2013 and 2014, the first coming when he was just 20 years old. Last year Lorenzo, 28, took the title after a thrilling finale in which he edged out Valentino Rossi, the legendary six-time champion, with Marquez left to count the cost of several races in which he did not finish.
Marquez and Lorenzo have owned the first three races of the 2016 season, with the younger rider winning two to his compatriot’s one. According to Doohan, who dominated the sport with five successive championships in the 1990s, it’s a rivalry we should get used to, and one with an interesting dynamic.
“Last year it looked like Marquez was having trouble,” said Doohan. “It looked like the motorcycle had not been developed consistently along lines that suited his style. It may have been engineers being too much involved. This year it looks like they have solved any problems they had about whose bike it really is. If he continues like this then clearly he’s going to be very hard to beat.
“He and Lorenzo are both seriously at the top of their game. Talent-wise, they are both similar. Lorenzo is more calculated in the way he competes. Marquez is more seat-of-the-pants; both equally quick. It comes down to the way the machine is working for them; the confidence they get back from the motorcycle and what they can extract from that to put them in a winning position.
“No matter which era you’re in, even if someone is dominating like Marquez has, there is usually someone there to push him. Marquez is young, Lorenzo too and there’s no doubt those two will be the rivals for the next three or four years.”
Doohan was talking at the Laureus World Sports Awards, where Novak Djokovic was named Sportsman of the Year. As a Laureus Academy member, Doohan has a vote in that award and defined criteria that could give Marquez a chance of securing the 2017 Award.
“You look for someone who has had a stand-out year in their sport,” he said. “If someone has dominated, then that’s a no-brainer. Someone has dominated tennis for an entire year, or dominated F1 or MotoGP. If they have been on top of their game throughout a season, or during something as prestigious as the Olympics – not just winning one event, but several – that’s a stand-out.
“The year before last there was Marquez and he’s started the season very well this year. Already Lorenzo hasn’t finished one of the races; Rossi hasn’t finished one of the races. It may be that they play into Marquez’s hand and he ends up having a dominant year.”