British GP: Marc Marquez rewriting rule book to reign in MotoGP

With his elbow slide and ability to turn with his rear wheel in the air, Spaniard is defying physics as he revolutionises the sport. Ahead of Sunday’s British GP he tells Mike Nicks how he’s doing it

It was a situation that Marc Marquez, the 21-year-old miracle worker in speed, thought that he had lost. He had angled his 1000cc Honda so far over to the right in a corner that even Bridgestone’s stickiest rubber lost adhesion and the Spaniard toppled over at nearly 70mph.

Marquez was sliding across the asphalt on the Brno circuit with his entire right side on the ground – arm, ribcage, thigh – and his left foot flapping in the air on top of the bike. But still he refused to accept that all was lost.

“I was completely on the floor, and I was trying to save, save, save with the elbow and the knee,” Marquez says as we chat at Silverstone. “Then I say OK, I will try to open gas, and I open gas and the bike is back.”

Defying every law of physics, Marquez levered and powered the 250hp Honda RC213V upright, and sped on round the circuit in the Czech Republic. The drama took place on a slow corner by MotoGP standards: he was doing 68mph when the front wheel slid away, and he had decelerated to 50mph by the time he was struggling on the ground. Even so, his recovery feat left his rivals stunned.

“Normally Marc leans the bike over to an angle of 63 degrees, but on that occasion it was at 67 degrees,” his crew chief, Santi Hernandez, confirms.

It is walk-on-water acts like this that are drawing fans to the British MotoGP at Silverstone this weekend to see Marquez attempt to once again pummel his rivals’ battered psyches. He has already won 10 of the 11 rounds in the series this year, was fastest during practice yesterday and looks set to canter to his second MotoGP world title with several rounds in hand.

Watching Marquez is never boring, because he is constantly rewriting the instruction manual of how to handle a 215mph MotoGP bike. With the need to transfer weight to the inside of the corner in order to increase the speed through it, the adrenalin-pumped athletes who pilot these missiles –  0-60mph in three seconds – have long been used to dangling over so far that they wear knee protectors on their leathers.

Then Marquez introduced the elegant trick of the elbow slide. He started to climb so far over the edge of the bike in corners that his entire forearm and elbow were dragging on the track. Leather manufacturers Alpinestars felt obliged to develop a special Marquez-proof protector for his elbows, consisting of a diamond-shaped magnesium patch on a plastic seating, attached by a Velcro fastening to the suit.

“We developed the elbow slider because Marc was damaging his leathers in the corners and it was a time- consuming update every time we had to make a replacement,” Alpinestars’ Jeremy Appleton says. “Now it’s simply a question of tearing off and replacing the protectors at the end of a day’s racing.”

Everyone who is serious about winning is now dragging the elbow. But even MotoGP hard cases Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have been fazed by Marquez’s latest trick – somehow he manages to turn the motorcycle while the rear wheel is hopping in the air. It doesn’t sound possible – a motorcyclist needs two wheels on the ground to make the bike change direction. Or they did until now.

“Normally riders like the rear wheel to touch the ground because it gives them more confidence,” Hernandez says. “The bike will be more stable that way. But Marc likes to prepare the entry to the corner with the rear flying.”

Marquez explains: “After lots of kilometres on the bike I started to adapt my riding style to try to manage more the braking and stability. Now I am able to control that kind of braking. The most difficult thing is the slide in the entry to the corner.”

Marc Marquez celebrates winning the Indianapolis Grand Prix Marc Marquez celebrates winning the Indianapolis Grand Prix  

No, it doesn’t quite explain what Marquez is doing and why. But a genius is often the last person who can analyse their actions micro-second by micro-second. Ask Lionel Messi to give you a minute breakdown of what he does.

Hernandez, who partnered Marquez to the 2012 Moto2 championship for 600cc bikes and to last year’s MotoGP title, probably knows his rider as well as anyone. “The elbow on the asphalt is a style that Marc started to do because it’s natural for him,” Hernandez says. “It gives him another  reference point to know where his limit is.”

The messages from two tyres and his knee on the track were clearly insufficient feedback for Marquez. The dragging elbow now gives him a fourth contact point with Mother Earth.

Marquez himself remains modest about his gifts. “I think it’s a bit like soccer,” he says. “With the motorbike you only see the rider, but behind the rider there is a team. And behind the team there is a factory, a bike and everything else that you need to find the best package.”

It is certainly true that Honda has given Marquez the most effective machine on the MotoGP grid this year. The combination of the Spaniard’s flair and Japanese technology has landed him with a 77-point lead over his nearest rival, his Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. A second world championship is all but in Marquez’s palm, but the crowds still flock to MotoGP circuits to see him weave his special brand of alchemy.

There is also the spectacle of the always-thrilling Rossi trying to power his Movistar Yamaha past Pedrosa into second place in the standings by season’s end.

None of the five Britons on the grid for tomorrow’s 20-lap race on the 3.666-mile circuit is likely to climb the podium, yet each had his personal heroic battle to wage. Bradley Smith would dearly love to lift himself above 10th in the points table on his Tech 3 Yamaha, Cal Crutchlow seeks to stage a mid-season revival on the slow-turning Ducati, and the 21-year-old Scott Redding and Leon Camier, 28, want career-boosting finishes to help next year’s job prospects. 

The prospects of any of the riders, British or not, catching Marquez any time soon, however, are beyond remote.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map