Marc Marquez has pushed Jorge Lorenzo to new limits

EIGHT months ago, I went further than many pundits in predicting that MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez would win a few races and even remain in the title hunt until the final few rounds before eventually losing out to either Jorge Lorenzo or Dani Pedrosa.

Eight months later, and we are poised for a more mouth-watering climax at Valencia than any of us could possibly have imagined.

Suffice to say I am feeling rather foolish about my prediction, although nowhere near as foolish as those who predicted that Repsol Honda’s Marquez would need at least a season to adapt to the additional size and power of a full-blown MotoGP machine.

The young Spaniard is a prodigy. This season, he has ridden with such a magnificent blend of speed, exuberance, experience and professionalism – Philip Island excepted – that, in many other seasons, the title would already have been wrapped up.

Not since 2006 and Valentino Rossi’s meltdown at Valencia to hand the title to Nicky Hayden have we seen the championship come down to the wire.

The reason the title-race is still alive is down to the brilliance of one rider – Yamaha’s Lorenzo.

Marquez’s pace has pushed Lorenzo to produce some superlative riding, with his performances at the likes of Silverstone demonstrating just how much Marquez is forcing him to reach new levels.

It would be fickle and downright unfair to say Marquez is where he is because of a superior machine.

The consistently not-quite-good-enough performances of teammate Dani Pedrosa show that it is not about the bike.

However, Honda deserve massive credit for keeping the RC213V machine savagely fast in a straight line whilst targeting their opponents’ strongpoints.

In their case, it was Yamaha’s superior low-speed cornering which set them apart, but Honda have worked so hard on that area that it is now only high-speed corners where Yamaha have the advantage.

As a result, the Honda is a superior machine, which makes Lorenzo’s desperate title-defence all the more impressive. Lorenzo has produced some of his best-ever riding this season, and to think it could all be in vain is a frightening prospect to anyone opposing Marquez.

It will most likely count for nothing as Marquez is in a significantly stronger position that Lorenzo but, as Hayden’s victory in 2006 showed, anything is possible.

A final thought: regardless of who wins on Sunday, it opens up the tantalising prospect of who will dominate the sport over the next 10 years.

Lorenzo is a fabulous rider who I believe will add to his two MotoGP crowns, but the emergence of Marquez will from now on prove a massive hindrance to many further titles.

The Mallorcan is 26 and arguably in his prime, but if (and I stress, if) a 20-year-old Marquez can best him in his rookie season, what chance does he have as Marquez matures, both physically and mentally?

Which brings us to Marquez – can he dominate in the way that Rossi did for so long? It is certainly possible.

He is an unbelievable talent at just 20 and will only become faster with age. Provided another incredible youngster does not burst onto the scene in the same way, why should he not challenge Rossi’s record haul of seven senior titles?

That unpredictability is the beauty of MotoGP, if not sport as a whole. In eight months, Marquez has gone from promising youngster to potential greatest of all time.

Perhaps there is an element of journalistic hyperbole in such a statement, but the beauty of it is the next bright young thing could be just a couple of seasons away, blocking Marquez’s quest for more titles much like he is to Lorenzo now.

One man who it is hard not to feel sorry for is Pedrosa. It seems a lifetime ago that he stepped up to MotoGP as the hottest young thing on the market (it was 2006).

Over eight years, the perennially baby-faced Spaniard has seen his hopes of a title gradually eroded through injuries, errors and the strength of his rivals.

He is now viewed as a nearly-man, an also-ran, a bridesmaid and – perhaps worst of all – the greatest never to win a senior title.

As harsh as that may sound, the fact that it is Marquez and Lorenzo who will scrap it out in the final act of this dramatic MotoGP season shows just how fine the margins are between greatness and perceived failure in this thrilling and unforgiving sport.

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