Marc Marquez is a record-breaking motorbike star
Spaniard won MotoGP title in debut season
He became youngest rider to defend crown
Hoping to move on from feud with rival
Like so many things in life, success often comes down to one moment – one twist of fate that helps everything fall into place.
For motorcycling’s brightest young star Marc Marquez, that moment came when he was just eight years old.
The double MotoGP world champion – who began riding aged just four – was at his local motocross track in the Catalonia region of Spain when a talent scout spotted him.
“I come from a normal family, and motorbikes – you cannot forget that they are expensive if you want to ride. When you get older, they get more and more expensive,” Marquez tells CNN’s Human to Hero series.
“There was one guy watching me, watching the riders, and he said, ‘You will come to my team.’ So, from nine years old, for my family, everything was free. This was a big help, and for that reason I am here now.”
CNN spoke to Marquez at the very track where that meeting took place, not far from the small town of Cervera, where the rider still lives with his parents and younger brother Alex – also a world champion in the third-tier Moto3 class of racing.
To say Marquez has taken motorcycling’s elite competition by storm is something of an understatement. In his debut season, he became the youngest MotoGP world champion, and then at 21 the youngest rider to retain the title. He was the first to win 10 consecutive MotoGP races, and the youngest winner of all three grand prix categories.
Here, at the track where it all started, the 22-year-old is running a training camp for young riders. It brings his fame into focus, and he acknowledges that it feels odd.
“You know it’s strange when you are riding with the kids here. I speak with them and you see their faces, you know? When the other instructors speak, (the kids) are looking around there, around the circuit, but when I am speaking they are like this: (Marquez stares, eyes wide, straight ahead, then laughs).”
He says he feels a sense of responsibility to the youngsters, “You know the way that you speak, the way that you ride the bike, the way you eat something, they are looking all the time,” he says. “You must be right at these things, because you know what you do they will copy.”
Despite his incredible success, Marquez has also endured setbacks. The 2015 season, after back-to-back world titles, was one he will want to forget after a disappointing third place in the title race, and a bitter, headline-making feud with MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi.
“The target was to win the championship, but then there were problems,” he explains. “I crashed some times and this pressure that comes to you – not from you because already you put on yourself – it’s from other people. This is the most difficult thing … but you must be strong at these moments and come back even stronger.”
As for Rossi, who blamed his young rival for costing him his first title since 2009, Marquez is hoping for a fresh start next year.
“I hope 2016 will be a new season, a new relationship, and we try to forget all these things,” he says.
Perhaps the most difficult episode in the young rider’s life is one that has also given him the strength to overcome setbacks on the track. In 2011, after a horrifying practice crash in Malaysia, Marquez suffered an eye injury that threatened to end his fledgling career.
“I was seeing double for, like, five months,” he recalls. “The biggest thing, or the biggest problem, was when I was going to the doctor and he was saying, ‘Yeah maybe we can fix it for normal life, (but) for racing, we don’t know if it will be possible to race again.’
“It was really difficult to focus, to keep motivation and keep the spirit (up),” adds Marquez, who had corrective surgery in January 2012 and then won that year’s Moto2 title.
Injuries are part of this most dangerous of motorsports, which pushes man and machine to the absolute limit. Among Marquez’s other record-breaking feats is MotoGP’s fastest recorded speed, 217 mph, and alongside his eye injury he has broken several bones.
Given the extreme speeds and the risks involved, normal people might think twice about getting on a bike.
“This is a question a lot of people ask me: ‘Are you scared?’ You know, it is not scary, because if you are scared you cannot be fast, but sometimes it’s like respect,” Marquez says.
“Because you know that you are really fast, and you know that you are on the limit, and you know that sometimes it’s dangerous – if you crash you get injured. But you try to forget this. But scared? I never feel scared.”
While Marquez says he finds it hard to describe how he feels while racing, the sensation of being a world champion is still fresh in his mind.
“I describe it always in three places: First you pass the line, and you feel happy, you feel really excited; but honestly you feel more when you arrive on the podium and all your team is there that worked with you,” he says.
“Because in the end, yes you are there, but there is a team behind you that worked with you, a factory, and sponsors. You see the faces smiling – then you really feel it.
“And there is another part, when you are alone on the podium, and you start to think about the season, and you get emotional there.”
Ultimately, Marquez says that success comes from desire.
“To be a special rider, or to be better than the others, you have to have the passion,” he maintains.
“Because if you have the passion, you give more; you are always thinking of motorbikes, training, you always want to ride a motorbike. For example, this is my holiday time and I am here with the kids, playing with them, riding the bikes. I enjoy it more here than going to the beach.”