Thanks to the good folks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Asphalt & Rubber recently got a chance to participate in a teleconference with an up-and-coming racer by the name of Marc Marquez. For those of you who haven’t heard about this talented Honda rider, he just won a little Spanish racing series called MotoGP — and apparently is the youngest rider ever to do so.
Taking questions from American journalists, the young Marquez shared with us his insights about winning the championship in his rookie season, riding on the factory-spec Honda RC213V, competing against riders like Jorge Lorenzo, and during the season when he thought he could actually be the MotoGP World Champion.
As always, Marc was his usual enthusiastic self, and we think it comes through in the transcript for the teleconference.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to the Red Bull Indianapolis GP teleconference. We are very grateful and privileged today to have the new Moto GP World Champion, Marc Marquez, of the Repsol Honda Team. Marc won the title by finishing third Sunday at the Grand Prix of Valencia, edging Jorge Lorenzo by four points. I could spend the next 15 minutes reading off a list of Marc’s accomplishments, but I’ll try to keep it brief.
A little bit of background. Marc is 20 years old. He’s from Spain. He’s the youngest premier class World Champion in history. He’s the first rookie to win the premier class world title since American legend Kenny Roberts in 1978. Marc won six races this season, a rookie record. One of those wins came in August at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at IMS, and he finished on the podium in 16 of his 18 starts this year. Marc has won three world championships in the last four seasons. He’s won the 125cc title in 2010, the Moto2 title in 2012 and the MotoGP World Championship in 2013. Oh, by the way, he also led testing today. His 2014 season is already underway. He led test today at Valencia.
Marc, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
MARC MARQUEZ: Thank you. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: I know there was a lot of anticipation about your arrival this year in MotoGP, and you have the championship pedigree. You’ve won the title in 2010. You won the title in 2012. But, in hindsight, when you first got on the bike for the first race at Qatar, was winning the world championship your ultimate goal for this season? Is this what you planned or was this a surprise?
MARC MARQUEZ: No, of course I didn’t expect that. No, the plan, yeah, my goal was to try to win not only in Qatar, but also always I have the mentality to try to fight for some podiums, for some victories. But I didn’t expect to be constant there in the top and fight for the championship and get it in the end. It was a great surprise because I expect that in the federation tried a little bit more and tried to be strong in this competitive season.
But from the beginning, I set records with the bike, and that was the most important.
Q. First off, congratulations on your elbow save in Turn 6 this morning. Well done.
MARC MARQUEZ: Thank you, thank you (laughing).
Q. I kind of wonder, do you feel like getting access to the factory Honda squad as a rookie was the difference that allowed you to be world champion out of the box, or do you think you might have done as well at LCR or Gresini?
MARC MARQUEZ: This is difficult to say because you don’t know. I didn’t test that bike, and I don’t know how what is the level. (Indiscernible), but by seeing what I had at the level of the other bikes were the same as the other ones. It’s true that the new improvements arrived a little bit later, but of course to be here on the Honda factory team helped me quite a lot.
Q. We all know that RC213V is a great bike. Is there anything that you can think of that would make it better? Is there anything that you still want besides more power, which is obvious?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, sure, sure. We can improve many, many things, especially mid-corner then also edge grip in the mid-corner, too, we can improve. Exiting the corner also is traction we can improve, the stability too a little bit. But, yeah, the package was quite good, and I feel good on the bike.
Q. Indianapolis, IMS has redone the road course. Have you seen it yet?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, I think Indianapolis will be to remove the top (asphalt) and also change some corners. To change the corners I do not agree, because once it’s like that, we need to keep it. I also was nice (Indiscernible). But, anyway, to remove the asphalt also every ride it was pushing, to me it was OK because it was great, too. It’s not like that to get the feeling on the bike like this track. But, anyway, that is the way we’ll need to deal with that.
Q. We were just wondering, you filled a pretty big vacancy (Casey Stoner) with the RC213V. You already answered your initial goals of joining the team about what you were looking forward to in the 2013 MotoGP. When did you realize you actually had a shot at this title?
MARC MARQUEZ: When did I realize?
Q. Yeah, when did you realize you could actually obtain the title?
MARC MARQUEZ: Maybe I start to realize a little bit after Brno when I had to realize. Also then Silverstone, even I had the injury, but I started to realize in that race because Dani was a hundred percent, and I was able to fight with them and to win that race.
Q. Who do you see as your biggest threat in 2014, and also what riders do you see coming up through the ranks like your brother Alex in Moto3? Who do you think will have a big opportunity in the future?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, 2014 will be changed a little bit because they’re going to change the rules and that will be important to adapt the bike to those rules. But, anyway, I think Jorge will be strong. Dani will be strong. We will see also Espargaro, I think he can do a good job. We’ll see if he can stay there every race. But, yeah, it’s coming there. The young talents and from Moto3 especially, and yeah, I think my brother next year. Maybe he will have the first chance to fight for a championship. But, of course, he needs more experience, but anyway, he’s doing a very good job.
Q. Marc, tell me what your thoughts were during the race watching with Jorge and Dani battle at the front especially after Jorge’s comment this is season about your aggressive riding?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, you know. I worked that button, and what I say already in the past, we are here for racing, we are here to fight always inside the limits. But, yes, Jorge all the year complained about me, complained that I might achieve rider. And here he had some movements a little bit tame or even stronger that I might want.
But anyway, for me, I was agreeing because I think here we are for racing, and he was fighting for a title, and then he tried to stop the race, and for that reason he did that movement on that access.
Q. I know race direction had a conversation with Jorge after the race. Do you think it would be better or worse for MotoGP to continue with thoughts on hard battles like that?
MARC MARQUEZ: I think for the show they need to be a little bit open-minded and try to be here in Valencia with a special situation for Jorge because he was fighting for a championship. He stopped the race, but he did it with a special situation because there was a problem on the corner. So they need to really be open. But, anyway, always he tried some limits. But that I think for me was OK.
Q. You know, your trademark this year was being very aggressive and always pushing to the limit, even in practices you had crashes. Finally, maybe in the last race you were a little more cautious than previous. But do you think you will race that way next year? Will you continue to be aggressive even in practice, or do you think you learned something from this year and maybe will try to be more cautious at times?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, sure, I will have more experience in the category, and I will try to have less pressures, too. But it’s like what I say, if I want to find the limit, I need to find it in practice because then in the race try to know where is the limit. But, anyway, yeah, I will try to improve. In the past, I’ve tried to be a little bit not as smoother because in the end, it’s my style. But a little more constant on the lines and with the experience of this year trying to use it and trying to have less pressure.
Q. As a follow-up, many people were surprised when you were penalized for colliding with Pedrosa at Aragon. Do you personally think that racing officials are involving themselves too much in what’s going on on the track? Does it take away from the racing?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, for sure, I’m most disappointed about that actions because it was so unlucky for Jorge. But I think it was a race incident. But, anyway, of course I was completely disagree with that point of penalty because it was not meant. But anyway, we are here, we have the Race Direction, and we much respect the decision of them.
Q. I don’t think your competitors expected you to be quite as competitive and as fast as you were in 2013. For next season, have you lost the element of surprise? Do they know what’s coming for next year now? Can you expect to see more challenges on the track from your competitors than you saw especially at the beginning of this year?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, sure. I think nobody, nobody expect that, and I didn’t expect that to be competitive from the beginning. But anyway, everybody was looking – will be looking at you and looking at me, sorry. The pressure will be higher. So we’ll be more difficult. But for sure Jorge and Dani, they will control me, but like I controlled them.
But, yeah, anyway, this year was a great surprise to be there from the beginning. I think it was a surprise for everybody.
Q. I think you touched on this a little bit. I’d like you to expand on it a little more though. The part of the 2013 seems to be mid-corner, edge grip, is that what you said? That is the area you want to work on the most for 2014?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I already tried the other bike today, and we improved a little bit on that point. But then I have some negative points, too. But anyway, mid-corner, edge grip will improve a little bit. But you know, today we practice with the bike, and tomorrow we’ll try to concentrate to find a good setup, and we’ll see really how is the potential of this bike.
But, yeah, today was pretty good. We got a lot of information, and that will be important for the winter time because then that can work on a new I don’t know. New chassis, new (indiscernible) or something new.
Q. You’ve had an amazing calm all year despite intense pressure. I don’t know if your father emphasized the importance of calmness to you growing up, but do you have any specific mental techniques that you use to clear your mind before you race, visualization, meditation, anything like that?
MARC MARQUEZ: No, no, no. Always my mentality before to go in the race to go on the bike I like to be alone here in the moat home and I sit alone. If I speak with somebody, I speak with Emilio or someone, my manager. But I like to be here alone and quiet.
Q. In what ways did your recovery when you were out with your eye injury, in what way can you talk about how that increased your mental strength a bit? Can you expand a bit more in what ways that helped you?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, well the most difficult part of my career, the most difficult month because you know it was an injury and the doctor say that we don’t know if you will ride again the bike. Then when I see recovery, I say we enjoyed that because you never know what’s happening, what will happen in there in the future.
So that changed a little bit my mentality. But I enjoyed every moment and enjoyed the races and enjoyed what we are doing.
THE MODERATOR: You’re 20 years old. You’re the world champion. How do you expect your life to change and how are you trying to stay grounded? I mean, you’re the best rider in the world in your first year in the category. You’re 20 years old; you’re a superstar. How do you stay the same? How do you not let it go to your head?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, you know, that, of course is difficult, but you know, I try to be the same guy, the same Marc. I have all my people, my family, my team. I already said to them, if I change a little bit, if I start changing a little bit they can sit me or say, ‘Hey, Marc, you are not in the correct way.’ And that is good that the people around you also have that confidence to say to you that you need to be with the foot on the ground.
Q. I’ve got a question here, and it might be a little touchy. But what really happened at Phillip Island? Did you miscount laps, was the pit board wrong or did the team think they could run 11 laps without penalty?
MARC MARQUEZ: That was a big confusion. It was a mistake, human mistake. Yeah, it was a big mistake. But anyway, the team did a big confusion with the laps and they thought that it was possible to go in on that lap. But when they tried to – well, when they showed me to come in, yes, it was – only what I can say was that was a big mistake from the team. But will be a great experience for the future.
Q. I’m sure that probably worried you a little bit even though your points lead was good. If you had not won the championship this year and finished second or third, would you still look upon 2013 as a success?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, of course, of course. I already said on Tuesday here in Valencia and on Thursday, I said that for me that was much better than what I expect. To win the race, if we win the title, if we finish second, anyway it would be a great season because a rookie season always is difficult. To finish second also was a great result.
Q. Marc, do you think your career coming up through the ranks with Monlau and pardon me if I’m mispronouncing that. How different was it to jump into the HRC team and have different technicians, different support groups? How hard was it for you to adapt to working with them or were you able to simply say holy crap, these people won the championship year after year, I better listen to what they have to say?
MARC MARQUEZ: Yeah, you know, it’s different when you take that step because you tend to change everything. You change the bike, and you come to a new team. In the beginning, you feel a lot of responsibility because it’s many people inside all what you say. They will ride and you need to be careful what you say because if you say to them the wrong information, then they’ll be a little bit crazy to try to prove a podium, and that was not true.
Yeah, it’s difficult, but when you have the experience, it’s much better because it’s a factory. You are in the factory, and if you have something on the bike they can – they will try to do the best.
Q. For 2014 with the bike having a little less fuel, do you anticipate having to change your riding or what you do any differently?
MARC MARQUEZ: We will see first. We have to try to be more consistent on the lines try to be a little bit smoother, but especially more consistently on the lines. Then also try to improve the starts. That is two points that this year I lose a little bit.
Q. Marc, I understand your eye injury was quite serious, a detached retina, if I’m correct? I know that’s a serious injury, and many people have a difficult time recovering from that. How is your vision today? Do you still have some effects from that or do you see worse out of the eye that was injured?
MARC MARQUEZ: No, the vision I was unlucky on that time because already the doctor said to me maybe we’ll get an operation, but maybe the vision will not be a hundred percent. I think it will be good for a normal life, but for riding the bike or make something special it will be not perfect.
But I was so lucky, and now it’s a hundred percent better. I’m very, very, very proud of my doctor because he did a very good job, and he gave me again the opportunity to ride the bike.
Q. Did they do laser reattachment? Did they use a bubble? How did they reattach your retina?
MARC MARQUEZ: What do you mean about operation?
Q. Yeah, how did they reattach it?
MARC MARQUEZ: Honestly, exactly I don’t know. I know that they put something inside the eye like some tendon, and then maybe I don’t know exactly. But I know they put some tendons.
Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved