Fresh from his fourth WSBK title, Jonathan Rea gives his verdict on two of MotoGP’s most famous riders
Record four-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has said that Marc Márquez is converting fans on and off the track with his personality and riding style.
Rea compared Valentino Rossi to the 2018 MotoGP world champion during the latest Royal Automobile Club Talk Show, and said: “Unfortunately for Marc, he’s grown up in sort of a ‘Rossi Mania’.
“You go down the street here in London and you talk about motorbikes and people mention Barry Sheene or Valentino Rossi; Joe Bloggs won’t know anyone else and Marc’s doing a better job in this era.
“He’s the best rider in the world bar none.”
But the Northern Irishman, who holds the longest winning streak ever in WSBK with 10 consecutive victories, said that Márquez has carved out his own identity in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Not only that, he added that Márquez’s personality is winning more and more fans.
“Each rider has their own specific style and, not that one’s right or one’s wrong but, I think Márquez’s style is Márquez’s style – it’ll be world famous forever. I mean, he’s taking racing to the next level.
“Every year I go to a motocross camp in Spain, and Marc had arranged that we go and ride on his assistant’s – José [Luis Martínez’s] – track. All my friends are Rossi mad. We put a truck-full of bikes on and we went there and it was a bit awkward. Afterwards I was finishing up and he had to jump off for a photoshoot and then he came round to each and every one of my Manx friends that were all sat down talking about the day. He sat down with them and asked them each: ‘Hi, what do you think of the track and do you like it? Did you have fun?’
“And they went off from being Valentino fans to absolutely loving Marc Márquez.”
Rea has raced in the WSBK championship for a decade, and he conceded that he wouldn’t be able to match Rossi’s longevity. The 39-year-old Italian is in his 18th season of top-tier Grand Prix motorcycle racing and will remain with Yamaha through to the end of 2019. That will make him the first MotoGP rider over the age of 40 since Colin Edwards, in 2014.
“I struggle to understand how he still has the drive to keep going. He’s the greatest of all time but he’s still there and he’s the biggest pain in the ass for Marc at times. His 2017 season was incredible.
“No way [could I race another 14 years]. The guy’s an absolute legend. I mean you can’t call too many people a legend and Valentino is a legend.
“It’s completely nuts and what’s more, he’s got so much going: nine [titles] with the VR46, merchandise, branding… the VR46 racing Academy. He’s gone out there, putting his ass on the line dirt tracking with these kids who are so hungry and ruthless – and he’s smashing them.
“His mental capabilities are really strong and I think, as well, in the past that could never happen as in modern-day motorcycling the safety equipment and the electronics involved are really prolonging riders’ careers so physically you’re in great shape – so why not continue?”