Monday, September 1

DOOHAN'S RECORD UNDER THREAT

By Michael Esdaile

UP until the Czech Grand Prix at Brno on August 17, there was a steady buzz in the motorsport media around Repsol Honda MotoGP champion Honda riderMarc Marquez.  

At that point he had won the first ten MotoGP races of the season.

That equalled Giacomo Agostini’s string of ten consecutive race wins from the 1968 and 1970 seasons.  It also equaled Michael Sydney Doohan’s ten race streak in 1997.
 
Unlike Agostini’s record, Doohan’s ten race string did not start from the first race.  The Australian won the first two races, then was beaten by Honda team-mate Alex Criville at the third round, perhaps not surprisingly at Jerez where Criville was in front of his home crowd.

After that, Doohan won the next race, at Mugello, and carried on to win up to and including round 13 at Barcelona in September.  Eleven in a row looked possible heading to the final round at Phillip Island but with a six second lead in his home grand prix, Doohan crashed and Criville took the win.

Had he not crashed and instead carried on to win, Doohan would have taken Agostini’s record for the most consecutive wins in a single season in the premier class.  As it was, he established a record with the greatest number of wins in a single season in the premier class with his 12 race victories.

After Marquez scored his tenth win this year at Indianapolis, the talk was no longer of whether he would retain the title he won in 2013 – with six race wins – but whether he would go on to sweep all 18 races in the season.

In a news item on the subject in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 11, Doohan was reported as saying he was surprised his record of 12 wins in a single season had been unmatched for so long, especially during the years Rossi won his first MotoGP titles.

"Rossi had a good crack at it and Marquez, in his current form, is looking like he's going on to win maybe another 10," Doohan told AAP.

"He's certainly the man of the moment – he's making the other guys look like amateurs.  He's got a team-mate on a similar bike, he's got good rivals on other competitive bikes, but he's just riding on a different level to everybody.  There is every chance he's going to win all 18 [races this year]."

On the prospect of Marquez breaking his record of 12 wins in a single season in the premier class, Doohan saw the young Spaniard as odds-on to do it.

"There were 15 races in the season I did it, so ... with eight races left, and on his current form, there's a good chance he's going to pick up more than two wins," he said at the time.

The five times World 500 Champion said while Honda clearly had the edge on Yamaha in 2014, Marquez's mental strength and confidence has proved to be the real difference.

"What he gets away with is nothing short of spectacular," Doohan said.

"He's consistent as well.  He doesn't make a mistake,” he added.

"The thing with that is the other guys will lift their level as well.   It may not be the next race, but certainly they'll keep pushing until they try and close the gap, that's for sure."

Marquez himself marveled at his unbeaten start to the year, but in that August 11 Sydney Morning Herald piece, he predicted it would not be easy to maintain it.

"Every weekend I say, 'Okay, here is maybe the time to finish second or third. Here will be the time where I struggle'. But every race I feel so strong," he said.

"The most important thing is that I enjoy it and, like we saw on the podium, the team enjoys every victory like the first one, which keeps the motivation and concentration.

"But it will be so difficult to win every race.”

Almost as if on cue, a week later Marquez’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa won the very next MotoGP race, at Brno in the Czech Republic.

That ended any chance Marquez had of winning every race in the season but now he has won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, he is just two wins away from breaking Doohan’s 17-year-old record.  With six races left in this year’s championship, there’s every chance he will do it.

Following his Silverstone win, Marquez leads the world championship by 89 points over team-mate Pedrosa.

After the race he said he was surprised with the strong ride from two-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.

“Honestly today I didn’t expect Jorge to be like that! He was so strong from the beginning. The pace was very high,” he said, adding they were running the same lap times as in the fourth practice session.

“He was pushing a lot at the start and I was trying to save the tyres a little.

“In the second half of the race my pace was slightly better and I tried to overtake him but made a mistake. I started to think about last year and I said ‘ok we’ll make a small gap.’  It was very tough on the last few laps. Luckily it was enough.  A great battle and great to return to victory,” he beamed.
Since he stepped up to MotoGP from Moto2 in 2013, Marquez has 
finished on the podium in 27 of his 30 races.