When things are bad for Marc Marquez, they’re still good. The Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, for example, was a bad weekend for Repsol Honda’s MotoGP rookie. Three crashes in the two days leading up to the race then sliding out of second place, ending his weekend in the gravel trap. Although his spectacular Friday free practice crash at the end of Mugello’s 200+ mph front straight raised eyebrows across the paddock, Marquez escaped largely unharmed from all four incidents. A swollen chin was the only visible damage to the 20 year-old Spaniard, though Marquez admitted nagging pain in his shoulder and leg from Friday’s high-speed get-off.
It was a bad weekend on paper, that is, but fans with one eye on the history books will have noticed a pattern in Marquez’s education. Valentino Rossi famously took two years to win a 125cc title, two years for a 250cc title, and two years to win a premier class world championship. The first year in each class was used for crashing and learning, and the second he took home the crown. More recently—2008, specifically—Jorge Lorenzo was just beginning to set the world on fire in his first season of MotoGP competition. He finished on the podium of his first race (like Marquez) and won just his third race in the premier class. Marquez in five starts has four podiums, including one win, and two poles so far in 2013.
In Lorenzo’s fourth GP, in China, he suffered one of the most awesome (awful) highsides in the MotoGP era. After recovering and finishing second at Le Mans, he went on to crash out at Mugello, did not start at Catalunya due to a crash, finished sixth at Donnington and Assen, crashed at the Sachsenring in Germany and at Laguna Seca, and was 10th at Brno. It took until Misano on the last day of August, three months and six GPs after his first serious crash, for Lorenzo to show the same form he had early in the season.
Marc Marquez seems to be following the same path. Keeping in mind he has not solved the Rubik’s Cube of MotoGP competition just yet, Marquez has impressed the world with his learning curve and resolve. But perhaps most worrying for his competition is the pattern in which he is learning.