Marc Márquez: riding and smiling

The rookie MotoGP star could win the title in his very first season on Sunday

Marc Márquez during a press conference ahead the Australian Grand Prix.
Marc Márquez during a press conference ahead the Australian Grand Prix. PAUL CROCK (AFP)

Valentino Rossi tells a story about the days when he had the chance to win the MotoGP championship. For him, it was all about the special sensations that ran through his body. "They stay with you for the rest of your life," the seven-time world champion explains. The winner of the 2012 title, Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo, remembers the bad night he had before the 2010 race in Malaysia, when he too could have taken the title. "I slept very little. As it was the first time that I could have won the title, all I was thinking about was winning. That brings a lot of extra pressure with it," he explains.

Motorcycling fans will have to wait until Sunday (7am, Telecinco) to see how Marc Márquez responds to that pressure, as the 20-year-old Spaniard, who is in his rookie year in the MotoGP series, has a very strong chance of making history in Australia and taking the crown. But for now, Márquez does not seem fazed. "Obviously this is the first chance I have to win the title, but for me it is just another race," the Honda rider told the press at the Phillip Island circuit. "The important thing is to win the title, not when I win the title. And there are still three races to go."

For some time now, everything Márquez has done has been off the usual script. Things are moving so fast that many feel he is not fully aware of everything that he is achieving. "Everything has come so quickly — the first win, the chance to win the title — that I don't think I'm giving it all the importance it deserves, but that's good because it is allowing me to be more relaxed on the track."

Márquez is far from overwhelmed by all the attention he is getting, or the constant flattery he is receiving from his competitor Rossi. Nor does he seem aware of the hopes that have been raised among his fans back in Spain. "We are too far away to know anything about that, on the other side of the world," he jokes.

The hours are counting down until he will have the chance to match the achievement of Kenny Roberts, an American who is still the only rider in the modern era of motorcycle racing to have won the championship in his very first season, back in 1978.

"If you win the world championship in your first year... there's nothing else to say"

"The best thing about Marc is that he is dealing with it all as if it were nothing," says British MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow. "He doesn't care what they write about him, what Jorge [Lorenzo] says about him or if there is a bomb sitting on the corner of a turn. He just rides and smiles. I don't think he'll be racing this weekend and thinking about the championship."

And it is precisely that attitude that might see him sew up the title this weekend, with a couple of races to spare.

"He has a good [points] advantage," adds Rossi. "He can race as he has up until now. He will be under pressure, but not too much. This is not a championship that is going to be won or lost with a few points difference."

Ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Márquez is way out ahead on 298 points. His nearest competitor is Lorenzo, who has scored 255 points. Márquez's teammate, Dani Pedrosa, currently lies third, on 244 points.

"If Marc wins it will be more down to him than Honda," adds Rossi. "If you win the world championship in your first year... there's nothing else to say," the Italian concludes.

Lorenzo — who can delay Márquez's title win with second place or victory this weekend — was also forthcoming about what an achievement it would be for the youngster. "I always say that however good you are, you're never going to win on a bicycle — you have to have a competitive motorbike," he says. "But it is also true that not all riders have won with Honda."

Márquez might do just that in his debut year in the MotoGP category. Australia will be his first chance to do so — but should he fail, there is still Japan and the season-closer on home turf, in Valencia, to come.

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