‘El Niño’ shows them how it’s done

Marc Márquez rides to a record-breaking win at the Grand Prix of the Americas

Marc Marquez and teammate Dani Pedrosa of Spain celebrate their one-two finish at Grand Prix of the Americas.
Marc Marquez and teammate Dani Pedrosa of Spain celebrate their one-two finish at Grand Prix of the Americas. PAUL BUCK (EFE)

It seems there is no challenge the young Spanish motorcycle rider Marc Márquez cannot rise to. He was expected to arrive in Austin, Texas at the weekend and teach the rest of the MotoGP field a lesson — and he did. He was expected to take pole position on Saturday and beat the record for the youngest rider to do so in the series — and he did. He was expected to win the race, just his second in MotoGP — and he did.

At just 20 years old, Marc Márquez's stunning performance at the Race of the Americas on Sunday ensured his place in the history books, as he became the youngest rider ever to win a MotoGP race. On the track he has already proved that he is not intimidated by anyone — not his idol, Valentino Rossi, who could only manage sixth place in Austin; nor his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who did his best to hold back "El Niño," as Márquez is affectionately known in the paddock, but was eventually overcome by the recent graduate from the Moto2 series.

After what was, for many, a perfect race, Márquez took a long-standing record from US rider Freddie Spencer: he had won a MotoGP event at the age of 20 years and 63 days; Spencer's record, set in Spa in 1982, was 20 years and 196 days.

Showing intelligence and a gentle touch, Márquez spent much of the 21-lap race in the wake of Pedrosa, until eight laps from the end. It was then he made his move, in the first sector of the Hermann Tilke-designed track, which was hosting its first ever MotoGP at the weekend. Making use of three fast corners, Márquez darted down the inside of Pedrosa, managing to make the maneuver stick and relegating his fellow countryman to second, where he would stay.

The third-placed rider was another Spaniard, Jorge Lorenzo, who had the dueling Hondas in his sights but was never within a fighting chance of getting his Yamaha anywhere close to them, given the problems he had dealing with the low-grip surface of the track.

After the checkered flag had ushered Márquez across the line, and he had returned to the pits, the 20-year-old was all smiles as he tried to contain his excitement over what he had achieved. Rossi had already congratulated the Spaniard on the track, while Pedrosa gave his teammate an affectionate pat on the back once back in the pits. The reigning world champion, Jorge Lorenzo, had plenty of kind words for his competitor. "He is a brilliant rider," Lorenzo told the press after the race. "He has a huge capacity for learning."

Márquez himself said the win has given him a push for the rest of the season, but he sounded a note of caution. "For me it's another motivation," he said. "Since I started, everything has been good, but with victory your confidence changes a little bit. Everything looks like it's going good, but I think it will be so difficult to fight with these guys every race and keep this level. I cannot forget this is my first season, so now it will be more difficult at some tracks where Yamaha is strong, where everyone has more of a base. Our battle is like that. We cannot think about the championship because others are strong — Jorge Lorenzo was struggling at the weekend but was so close in the race."

After two races Márquez and Lorenzo are tied at the top of the rider's rankings, on 41 points apiece, while Pedrosa is third on 33 points. The next opportunity for Márquez to work his magic will be on home turf at the Spanish MotoGP in Jerez, on May 5, where he is likely to be given a hero's welcome by Spanish fans — whether or not he manages to break new records.

Meanwhile, Spaniard Nico Terol took his first win in Moto2 on Sunday, with fellow countryman Esteve Rabat taking second place. All three of the podium places were taken by Spaniards in the Moto3 series race, with Alex Rins taking the top spot, Maverick Viñales coming in second, and Luis Salom taking third.

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