With six world championships to his name, the extraordinary talent of Marc Marquez is obvious — and he’s only 25. So why does Honda’s No. 1 Moto GP rider need to ride in such a way as to get formally penalized no fewer than three times during a race?
Worse, two of those penalties were for apparently deliberately ramming other riders out of his way.
For those who weren’t watching, here’s what happened April 8 at the Argentine Moto GP race:
1) Marquez stalled his bike on the final grid. He promptly started pushing to restart (much against the rules), disobeyed the instructions of two marshalls to get off the track (very much against the rules), rode reverse direction on the track to get back to his grid position (very, very much against the rules) and took off with the grid.
His penalty: He was told to come in for a ride-through the pits at slow speed, losing perhaps 30 or 40 seconds, about a third of a lap at that track, which he did.
2) When he rejoined second-last and began scything his way back toward the front (and nearly cutting off the last-place guy as he re-entered the track), he hit the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro — hard — pushing Espargaro off-track and nearly into the gravel trap.
His penalty: He was told to slow enough to let another rider pass him, in effect giving up the position he’d gained in the incident, which he did.
3) Again charging up through the field, he tried an impossible dive-bomb on the Yamaha of Valentino Rossi, hitting the Italian hard enough at nearly full lean to send the Yamaha off-track. When Rossi got to the soaking wet grass still leaned over, he fell, fortunately without injury.
His penalty: After the race, Marquez was handed a 30-second penalty (in effect, a post-race ride-through), which dropped him to 19th in the finishing order, out of the points. Rossi meanwhile managed to restart and finish 18th — his race was ruined, as he had been sixth before being knocked down.
Racing in Canada isn’t exactly at the Moto GP level, but his infractions would have been penalized much more severely by most Canadian groups.
For example, Ashton Bond, Competition Co-ordinator for the Vintage Road Racing Association, tells us, “Marc would have been black-flagged from the race on the opening lap because he had knowingly ignored the directive of a marshal. If somehow they let that go, and I was considering his first obviously ridiculous pass attempt, he’d have been black-flagged then and there. If somehow the entire incident unfolded as it did yesterday and we were faced with all four violations in one race, he’d be facing a two-race suspension.”
Similarly, I’m a referee with the RACE regional series at Shannonville Motorsport Park in Ontario, and anyone who went through that series of shenanigans at one of our events would have been disqualified, likely lost any series points to date, probably fined, and possibly banned from at least one event, especially if there’d been previous form. We have, in fact, given a couple of lifetime bans to riders who insisted on riding rough and without respect for their competitors.
It’s worth noting that it’s not just wussy Canadian groups who disagree with Marquez’s actions. In addition to the understandable complaints of Rossi and Yamaha, three former Moto GP racers — James Toseland, Neil Hodgson, and Colin Edwards — have all gone on record saying that Marquez’s actions were disrespectful of his rivals and dangerous to all.
So, over to you, Moto GP Race Direction …