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Marquez and Dunlop: on the same curve

Sunday was quite a day for motorcycle racing: MotoGP at Mugello, the world’s greatest purpose-built circuit, and the Superbike TT on the Mountain Course, the world’s greatest circuit carved out of ordinary roads.

Michael Dunlop was the man on the Island and Marc Márquez might’ve been the man at Mugello, if he hadn’t teetered over the brink once too often. Even so, to come back from three practice crashes – including the fastest-ever in GP history, after he lost the front at 210mph – to challenge for a podium was nothing short of magnificent.

motogp motogp race  Marquez and Dunlop: on the same curve

I see similarities between the Ulsterman and the Spaniard. Márquez is the wild young man of MotoGP, just like Dunlop was only recently the wild young man of real roadracing. Son of Robert, nephew of Joey, Dunlop ruffled some feathers and bashed some fairings in his earlier years, just like Márquez now.

Dunlop is a solid rock of talent, hewn from real roadracing’s greatest dynasty. Over the years he has sculpted and burnished his skills into something that can win four TTs on three different types of motorcycle over four days. The 24-year-old is a real character who says exactly what he thinks and rarely fails to raise a laugh in an interview. As he said after his win in the first Supersport TT – his second victory in 24 hours: “It’s like Pringles – once you pop, you can’t stop”. He was probably speaking from experience in more ways than one – last winter Dunlop shed some of the excess pounds he had been carrying for the last few years. It’s all part of the process of honing himself into a leaner, meaner winning machine.

motogp motogp race  Marquez and Dunlop: on the same curve

Just like Márquez in MotoGP, Dunlop looks like he may be moving things on in real roadracing. He has devastating speed and yet the lock-to-lock wildness of a few years ago has been replaced by breathtaking momentum through the corners. On Sunday, Monday and Wednesday he made everyone else on the Island look a little second rate. Current Island king John McGuinness broke his own lap record in the Superbike race, trying to make amends for being “a little lazy at the start” (and a penalty for speeding in the pit-lane), so there’s no doubt McPint has what it takes to stage a counter attack in Friday’s Senior TT, but he already knows he has come up against the toughest rival of his career.

Márquez is just a little further down the learning curve than Dunlop. He already has devastating speed, but Mugello proved that he still needs to work on honing his talent, fashioning it into something more solid and stable.

motogp motogp race  Marquez and Dunlop: on the same curve

He is, of course, exactly where Jorge Lorenzo was when he came to MotoGP in 2008, when the former 250 champ’s rookie campaign was marked by stark contrasts of dazzling speed and agonising crashes.

When he won his first MotoGP crown, Lorenzo told me this. “At the beginning of my career in MotoGP I had the speed, but I didn’t have control of the motorcycle at 100 per cent.”

Márquez certainly didn’t have 100 per cent control last weekend. He had that 5mph off on Friday morning, when he ran wide and toppled off on damp grass, then that terrifying 200mph accident a few hours later, followed by another vault over the handlebars on Saturday morning, before a final high-speed off in the race. His mechanics must love him at the moment; the seamstresses at Alpinestars too.

It will be fascinating to see how he goes at the next round at Catalunya. He would surely have left Mugello beset with self-doubt, and the pressures will be greater than ever at his home race because he knows that his mind and body can’t afford another disaster of a weekend. He has made life difficult for himself because that narrow line between disaster and glory will seem narrower than ever. It’s at times like this that you get to find out whether someone has the mental fortitude and coolness to survive and prosper at 200mph.

Marquez’s record-breaking Mugello crash – when he fell while braking for Turn One, sending bike and rider skidding past a trackside wall at 180mph – proved that even in MotoGP you run the risk of getting way too close to walls at terrifying speeds. His recovery from that scariest of accidents also suggests that he is more than tough enough to make it, but we’ll see.

If Marquez’s comeback from that crash was heroic, spare a thought for TT rider Daniel Cooper, who was running 14th in Sunday’s Superbike race when he dislocated a shoulder while fighting a tank-slapper as he rode through the village of Kirk Michael. He pulled over, popped it back in and carried on to finish 29th.

Click here to read more from Mat Oxley.

motogp motogp race  Marquez and Dunlop: on the same curve


Add your comments

12 comments on Marquez and Dunlop: on the same curve

  1. Stylo, 6 June 2013 10:16

    Marquez is reckless. He needs to calm down before he kills himself or hurts another rider. I see him taking out a few riders during the season.

  2. Shawn, 6 June 2013 12:42

    Fantastic article. You’ve put to words what i’ve thought all along.

  3. N. Weingart, 6 June 2013 15:28

    Both McGuinness and Anstey have been openly impress with Michael Dunlop’s riding this week. One can sense a changing of the guard in roadracing. Godspeed to them all in what should be a real battle of a Senior TT Friday.

  4. kowalsky, 6 June 2013 16:12

    i love marquez. His accident and how he pulled himself together during the weekend to a almost second place on the race is what captures a young fan’s imagination. i am a little old, and i don’t get impressed that easy. I have seen it all too many times, but this type of situations, are why people get hooked up to motorsports in the first place. My case was with niki lauda, but i am sure many kids around the world will remember mugello and marquez for the rest of their lifes.

  5. Barry Glading, 6 June 2013 18:13

    Interesting that Dunlop is ‘to the manor born’ whereas Marquez has only his father’s enthusiasm for riding motorbikes in his background.
    Many of the greats have overcome some measure of ‘recklessness’ in their early careers, and I suspect Marquez will do the same.
    When you consider the arena in which Dunlop has overcome his wilder ways, his progress and maturity becomes even more remarkable.

  6. The Original Ray T, 6 June 2013 20:32

    Marquez is up in the top three because he has incredible talent, and literally no fear. He’d better learn a little fear, because it often takes a injurious accident to scare those riders, and they often never come back after that. His fearless moves remind me of Simoncelli.
    We don’t need this 200 mph speed in MotoGP. Sheene-Roberts duels took place in bikes producing a whopping 100 hp, which was considered insane back then.

  7. chris b, 6 June 2013 21:09

    excellent article as ever Matt, time will tell on Marquez, he certainly is quick and brave, but you and i disagree on this, I still don’t put him on the plateau you do, I rate Scott and the Espargo boys as highly and feel when all 3 are in MOTO GP next year on half-decent bikes they’ll be as impressive,

    now you’re talking, the TT is a must, an essential part of motor racing life, i would so encourage anyone and everyone to visit at least once, as you just don’t get how quick these people are, and now, just how much quicker Michael is, he just looks unbeatable at this moment, wish them all the best

  8. pavlo, 6 June 2013 22:04

    Marquez, the golden boy of motogp, the man of the moment. Really glad he is here and I sincerely hope he will rattle the cage of the established even more. Motogp is really boring at times, so it needs marc. Hopefully Valentino will step it up soon to make things even more interesting.
    I wish Stoner was still about, I wonder how he would react to Marc’s talent and aggression? Miss you Casey.

  9. Tony Geran, 7 June 2013 04:25

    Popping a shoulder back during a race, now I know those IOM racers are crazy. Must admit I fear for Marquez’s safety from time to time but don’t forget Casey Stoner was often seen throwing his bike down the road in 2006 but winning the championship in 2007. Agree with Pavlo that Moto GP can be boring and needs Stoner back, I don’t think Rossi will ever be the force he once was, though.

  10. Michael Cassie, 9 June 2013 03:22

    10/10 to Daniel Cooper, true fighting spirit. As has been said millions of times, there’s none of the football antics in motorbike racing where a brush from an opponent is followed by rolling on the ground in apparent agony. Overpaid nobodies every single one of the Premiership footballers.
    It’s these guys who deserve the megastar wages, yet they race and most will have a 8-5 job as well.

  11. Listerine, 10 June 2013 00:47

    Interesting that some posters focus solely on what Matt has got to say about Marquez and ignore the part of this excellent article which is about Dunlop and the TT. I’d guess that in some cases it’s because they’re well aware of the worldwide brand that is MotoGP (funny it never needed such branding in the days of Mike, Ago or Kenny) but sadly unaware of the extraordinary spectacle that is roadracing in general and the TT in particular. Just in terms of roadracing in the British Isles, all too few people on those very isles are aware of it (particularly of those amazing Northern Irish races, maybe a bit less unaware of the TT), let alone people beyond them. And that is very, very sad. To pavlo, I can only say that if you think MotoGP is really boring at times (and I wouldn’t disagree), you should go to YouTube and look up “Isle of Man TT”, “Ulster GP”, “North West 200″ or “Cookstown 100″. I assure you, you won’t be bored then. Long ago the TT and the Ulster GP were on the world championship schedule. Imagine that when F1 decided the likes of the original full Spa or Nurburgring Nordschleife or Rouen were too dangerous to stay on its calendar, a group of highly talented drivers just said to F1 “ok, you be boring, we’ll carry on racing powerful single-seaters round these tracks without you”, and you’ll get some idea. Me, I refuse to compare any of the great Dunlop dynasty with Marquez. As we know all too sadly, a Dunlop can go to the edge, but they always respect and revere their circuit. Marguez would risk life and limb in minutes on the Mountain Course or at Dundrod.

  12. Thomas Baujard, 20 June 2013 08:33

    Oustanding work, Mat, as always. You’re the best person to talk about the TT, having won one yourself. Lokks like Michael Dunlop is doing a fine job in endurance racing too. A series which is really fast nowadays : they qualify three seconds from MotoGP pole at Le Mans !

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