MotoGP 2014 review: Can anyone beat Marc Marquez next season?

The Honda rider clinched his second world title this season after nominating the year, but is there anyone on the grid for 2015 that can hope to beat him?

Marc Marquez secured his second title in Valencia
Marc Marquez secured his second title in Valencia

Not since Valentino Rossi began his motorcycling career 19 years ago, has there been such overwhelming awe for a motorcycle rider. Young Spaniard Marc Marquez has been consistently breaking records, introducing new riding techniques and learning lessons rapidly. Now a double World Champion after his second year in the premiere class, the question is, can Marquez be beaten?

2014 has been a season of two halves no doubt. Marquez won the first 10 races and had us thinking we had a Sebastian Vettel situation on our hands and that MotoGP was in danger of turning into an F1 bore. He broke the record for most wins in one season with his final race victory in Valencia and although he wasn’t the first rider to race with his elbow on the tarmac, when a winner works a new style, it is adopted. However, the second half of the season had Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa beating him to the line in the Czech Republic followed by four consecutive wins from the Yamaha camp. The last half of the year also saw Marquez crash out of two races both by his own doing.

Runner-up to Marquez this year is Valentino Rossi, who all credit to him, really put the sport on the map. After two unremarkable seasons with Ducati, he has become the oldest rider in the paddock but has defied some opinions that he’s not over the hill just yet.

He made the big decision after 14 years together, to change his crew chief Jeremy Burgess at the beginning of the season, along with adapting his riding style giving him his best season since 2009 – certainly proving old dogs can be taught new tricks. Still breaking records he became the oldest rider to win a pole position in MotoGP last weekend, an incredible result for someone who has never counted qualifying as a strength and this was his 60th compared to the 108 wins he has to his name.

We’ve seen Rossi’s enhanced confidence since being back with the Yamaha factory and from starting the season aiming for more podiums, he has finished the year with a second place medal, saying he has felt like a rookie and now his aim will be for the Championship title.

Rossi took second in Valencia to secure second in the championship

Rossi’s teammate and the predecessor to the Championship crown, Jorge Lorenzo had a shockingly bad start to the year and heading towards the summer break, he bravely admitted riding in fear when at Assen (a reminder of his collarbone-breaking crash last year), a rare show of vulnerability from a rider. While his season improved somewhat in the second half of the year, he has continually shown caution in any remotely wet conditions, culminating with his premature switch to his wet bike in Valencia as soon as raindrops hit the tarmac. This poor decision led to his retirement from that race and reaffirmed Rossi’s second position in the Championship.

Known for his smooth and calculated riding, we’ve seen a crash from the lead and a jump start and struggles with set-up. On finishing the season despondent with his third place medal, the once robotic Lorenzo commented not on the bike but that he must change himself for next year. His biggest defeat this year is perhaps more mental than physical.

Rossi has posed the main threat to Marquez this season

Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Pedrosa has challenged him at times this season, racing for the win in Brno and climbing the podium steps ten times throughout the year. He fought the Yamaha duo for the second place trophy until his chances were ruined during the Asian leg of the Championship. Buckling under the pressure, Pedrosa crashed out of his most successful circuit in Malaysia, followed by an incident in Australia where he got entangled with Andrea Iannone and there ended his hopes of securing the 1-2 for Honda in the Championship. Pedrosa has been with Honda since the start of his career and will continue as Marquez’s teammate despite rumours in the summer of an offer from the returning Suzuki factory team for next year. The final day of testing concluded with Pedrosa just 0.146s behind Marquez.

Marquez tested the 2015 Repsol Honda this week

And what of the British? It’s been 31 years since Barry Sheene lifted the trophy for Great Britain and in 2014 we had the most British riders starting on the grid. This included rookie Scott Redding who stepped up from Moto2 this year with the Go & Fun Gresini team on a Honda RCV1000r. Redding finished in the points throughout almost all races this year, (bar the Japanese round where he finished 16th and one crash in Texas), ultimately securing second place for the ‘Open’ class category that was won by Aleix Espargaro. On testing the new 2015 bike this week, he said he enjoyed having the speed to actually pass a rider on the straight.

The only factory riding Brit, Cal Crutchlow, has spent the year trying to get to grips with his Ducati. The Italian outfit are yet to be a real threat to the title but podium positions are within reach. Crutchlow, a World Supersport Champion, now has four years of GP riding under his belt and this year achieved one podium in Spain’s Aragon.

In Australia a second step on the podium was on the cards, had the Desmocedici not spat him off on Turn 4 of the last lap. A crash however, aided Bradley Smith giving him his first podium in the premiere class. Smith, the most successful Brit this year finished in 8th position in the Championship on his Tech3 Yamaha M1. In completing the three day test in Valencia this week Smith was 6th fastest, indicating more potential for British success next year.

Cal Crutchlow got his first experience on the LCR Honda

On concluding the first MotoGP test for the 2015 season, Marquez led the standings from his teammate, followed by the four Yamaha’s of Lorenzo, Pol Espargaro, Rossi and Smith. The most magnificent sight this week, was surely both Marquez brothers Marc and newly crowned Moto3 Champion Alex, racing #93 Honda RC213V’s down the start/finish straight dead level with each other. So, do we need to wait for the younger Marquez to enter the premiere class? What we do know is that Marc Marquez firing on all cylinders works, but when he doesn’t win - it’s not by a small margin.

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