Marc Marquez, 2013 MotoGP World Champion in his rookie season. In 2014, eight wins in eight races. Each day of his life garners another how many thousand fans? He seems able to win any race, to succeed in any situation. He looks bulletproof, invulnerable.
But he’s not the first to appear so in control of his own skills and talents that he can do nothing but succeed. Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 Championship season seemed (until 2014, anyway) about as perfect a campaign as was possible in the current MotoGP environment.
First or Second in all but two races? Lorenzo looked like a machine designed to win titles, unstoppable when things went his way, and savvy enough to grab second place when things didn’t.
He probably would have repeated in 2013 had Marquez not shown up to exceed expectations by such a dramatic degree. And to the previously unflappable, metronomic Lorenzo, Marquez has become something like kryptonite.
At the Monday test after Catalunya, Lorenzo seemed more human than I’d ever seen him. He appeared, through my lens, a champion in crisis. He didn’t seem to be trying less hard. He seemed simply to find that how hard he tried had no effect on his results.
A first-lap mistake in Qatar, an epic false start in Texas, the appearance of progress in Argentina, only to miss the podium in Jerez. More trouble in France, a second place (but another loss to Marquez) at Mugello, then a fourth place at his home round…could it get worse? He didn’t know it then, but as it happened, it could and did at Assen.
After his dominant 2012, and the craziness of 2013 (when he won eight of 18 races, mounting the podium fourteen times, all while torturing his left collarbone at Assen, then again at the Sachsenring, and still finishing second to Marquez) – how does a rider handle that?
As we’ve seen this season, it’s difficult. And it reminds me that the riders are at their most interesting when things are going badly for them.
My own experience working with MotoGP riders has only reenforced my perception of their humanity. They are unique, but they aren’t supernatural. They have gifts, more than the average person, more even than the above average person. But they are still persons, still human, imperfect in their own personal ways and with flaws and weaknesses we often cannot see when they are winning.
When their imperfections are revealed, when they change from being riders who can’t lose to riders who can barely make the podium, that’s when they become real to those of us who live in the realms below World Champion-level achievement.
Marquez’s 2014 is remarkable, sure. How long can he keep up the winning streak? How long can his luck hold? Is there any problem his skill can’t allow him to overcome? All interesting questions, and he is exciting to watch on track.
But let’s face it, things are going his way and have been for some time. He’s handling prosperity well.
Lorenzo’s 2014 may seem to him one of, if not his single, worst seasons in Grand Prix racing. But from my perspective, watching him suffer this year has made him a sympathetic character in the drama of MotoGP.
Handling prosperity is easy, or so I’m told. Being Jorge Lorenzo in 2014, is not. As a champion, how he handles the rest of this season, and the seasons beyond this one, just may be where his true story takes shape. That is where we will see the real Jorge Lorenzo.
Photo: © 2014 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved