Comparable to Formula 1, MotoGP is comprised of an 18-race series, which visits 13 countries on four continents. The “premier class” riders spend many years rising through the ranks of the Moto3 and Moto2 classes. Being a MotoGP competitor is inextricable from a certain level of glitz, sponsorships, and international stardom, all of which 21-year-old Marc Márquez, current MotoGP World Champion on the Repsol Honda Team, handles with remarkable ease. In the off-season, he’s just a normal guy: he frequents neighborhood bars with friends, plays video games, and indulges in hobbies (“The problem,” he says, laughing, “is all of my hobbies are sports.”).
Already a decorated veteran of the sport, Márquez claimed his first premier class title in his 2013 rookie season. Despite that, he takes this immense success—and consequential pressure—in great stride. Striking a perfect balance is the Spaniard’s business, literally, while straddling his Honda, but it also extends itself to his character and general approach to the sport: part natural talent, part fierce competitor.
In the motorbike world, Márquez’s riding style has been called risky by the press and enviable by his competitors—the former of which he completely agrees with. “Last year in the MotoGP category, everything was new [to me],” he says. “So I was able to be faster and, of course, take more risks than others because I didn’t have the experience.” That fearlessness sent him on to be the first rider since 1978 to take the MotoGP title in his first season in the premier class, and the youngest rider to win the title overall, only 20 years old at the time.
“For sure, being young helps him,” says Livio Suppo, Team Principal of Repsol Honda. “He is able to put crashes behind him quickly and be fast immediately afterwards. But in terms of racing attitude, I don’t think his age has any benefit for him—I believe it is more in his character.”
That character is an amalgamation of “courage and hard work,” says Suppo, and it’s something Márquez has cultivated since birth. At the wildly young age of four, Márquez hopped on his first motocross bike, and a year later began competing. For the next three years, riding would be a hobby that the entire family enjoyed. These days, his 17-year-old brother Alex is competing in the Moto3 category.
By age 15, Márquez made his debut on the Grand Prix. He took 8th place in the Moto3 World Championship. By 2010, he was the Moto3 World Champion. He spent the next few years shattering records and rising in the ranks, ticking off a few Moto2 World Championships in the process, until finally arriving at his current lead position in MotoGP’s premier class.
“Breaking records is important because that means you’re on the right path,” Márquez mentions. “It’s another motivation, but in the end the most important is the title.” And yet another motivation, of course, lies with his fans, one million of whom follow him on Twitter and Instagram. “It’s important to have the pressure [of that following] because they believe you can do it. And I prefer to ride under pressure.”
Sometimes, pressure gives way to injury. MotoGP competitors and fans alike became worried when Márquez crashed in Malaysia two years ago, while fighting for the Moto2 World Championship. He developed diplopia, or double vision, and his doctors doubted he would be able to get back on the bike; miraculously, six months later his vision cleared and he rode again. “In the end, on a bike, you go the limit,” he says, “and if you go the limit you can crash. But to improve, you need to find that limit and try to live on it.”
“Márquez is clearly in another league…It is good motivation because the level is so high, and if you want to beat him you have to give it more than 100 percent,” fellow rider Valentino Rossi said in a post-race press conference at the 2014 French MotoGP at Le Mans. Rossi had just finished second to Márquez, who in that moment became the first rider since Italian great Giacomo Agostini in 1972 to win the first five races of the season.
“He’s my hero and now I’m competing with him,” Márquez says of Rossi. “He’s been the World Champion nine times. It’s so nice for me, a young rider, when he sends good words and comments because [it] does much for the motorbike world.”
Whereas Rossi dominated MotoGP for the past decade, the world is inarguably witnessing the tidal turn for Márquez and his brilliant future. “I want to be here many, many more years,” he says. “In the end, [a competitor’s] most important quality is passion, and if you want something you have to fight for that. Nothing is impossible. That is the most important—more important than talent, more important than anything.”
Photographer: Molly Dickson for sisterbrothermgmt.com. Stylist: Jennifer Bigham for sisterbrothermgmt.com. Groomer: Jessi Pagel for CameraReadyCosmetics.com. Styling Assistant: Lexi Ross. Location: Hotel Saint Cecilia at hotelsaintcecilia.com.
Grooming notes: Lait Crème Concentré by Embryolisse, Color Process Foundation by RCMA, Micro Fine Loose Powder by Camera Ready Cosmetics, Hoola Bronzing Powder by Benefit, and Revive & Restore Lip Care by Blistex. Awapuhi Wild Ginger Finishing Spray by Paul Mitchell.