Marquez looking at history
INDIANAPOLIS -- Marc Marquez's march into the record books continues this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
At a historic venue where motorcycles actually raced before cars did, the 21-year-old Spaniard hopes to continue his complete domination of the 2014 MotoGP season. Marquez has won all nine races this year; a 10th consecutive victory in Sunday's 27-lap contest on the revised IMS road course would match Mick Doohan's feat from 1997.
Marquez, who was the first rider to win motorcycle road racing's most prestigious championship as a rookie since American Kenny Roberts in 1978, arrives for the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix refreshed after the traditional three-week MotoGP midsummer break -- even though he spent much of the time off testing Honda's 2015 prototype bike at the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic.
"We got a bit of rest for a week over this holiday, but then we continued with our work so we can put in a good performance," Marquez said Thursday during a pre-event media briefing at IMS. "It will be nice to get back on the MotoGP after two weeks in Brno, and it will be interesting to test the new layout and the new surface."
The IMS road course received some $5 million in upgrades since last year's Red Bull GP; many of the 16 corners have been reconfigured to improve the quality of racing, and the entire infield portion of the 2.591-mile layout has been repaved to add more grip.
Turns 2-3-4 have been opened up and linked together more smoothly, the Turn 6-7-8 combination should be faster, and the entry to the pit straight has been sped up with a racier Turn 15-16 chicane.
Perhaps more important, the riders will have to cope with just two transitions between asphalt surfaces at different parts of the circuit, compared to four in years past.
Six-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi, who won the inaugural Indianapolis race in 2008, approved of the modifications.
"Personally, this was not one of the best tracks of the season, more for the quality of the asphalt than the layout," Rossi said. "There were a lot of bumps and not good grip. It looks as though they have done a very good job with the changes, especially with the surface. The guys on the safety commission came here and said they did a good job and I hope the new part of the layout is better."
Rossi is third in the MotoGP standings, seven points behind his Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo and 84 points adrift of Marquez.
The Italian legend is searching for his first race win since late in the 2010 campaign.
"For me, it was a good first half of the season," Rossi said. "We did some very good races but unfortunately were never able to win or to beat Marc. We've had some good, consistent races, so the target is to continue like this and try to make something better in the second half."
Lorenzo, the 2010 and '12 MotoGP champion, signed a contract extension with Yamaha over the summer break and is eager to get on with the task of trying to slow down Marquez and Honda.
After closing the 2013 season with victories in five of the final seven races, Lorenzo has endured a tough first half to his 2014 campaign. He hopes to repeat his 2009 Indianapolis victory to kick things off.
"I've had a lot of difficulties, but I hope these difficulties could make me stronger," he said. "I've tried to learn from my mistakes; I'm very fit and have a high motivation to have a strong second part of the season."
The challenge for Lorenzo, Rossi and other top contenders like Honda's Dani Pedrosa is to somehow beat Marquez. The Spanish phenom has won from the front of the grid, the back of the grid and even after starting from the pit lane at the most recent MotoGP round in Germany.
Marquez has maintained all the speed he showed as a championship-winning MotoGP rookie, but he has cut down on mistakes and crashes.
He continues to amaze his competitors by pushing the limits of his motorcycle every corner of every lap.
"I've had the opportunity to race with Casey [Stoner, 2007 and '11 MotoGP champion], with Dani and with Valentino, and I think Marc, at this moment with this bike, has been even harder to beat," said Lorenzo. "For me it is a very special and motivating challenge to try my best to drive."
For his part, Marquez downplays the historic significance of the achievements in his young career.
If he ties Doohan's modern-era record of 10 consecutive race wins on Sunday, his next target is a run of 20 straight by Giacomo Agostini in 1968 and '69.
In the top 500-cc class of the era, Agostini won all 10 races of the 1968 season and the first 10 events of 1969 before sitting out the final two races of the '69 campaign.
"You don't feel additional pressure, but you feel maybe a little bit that the day that I do not win will be a disaster," Marquez said. "It's not really like that; I always say, 'Maybe it will be here, maybe it will be another event.'
"Someday, some Sunday will arrive when maybe Jorge or Valentino or Dani or somebody else will beat me," he added. "I have a big respect for them -- they are very good riders and we cannot forget that. This first part of the season was perfect for me, but the most important thing is to win the championship, not to win a lot of races."
Colin Edwards, in his last season of MotoGP competition, is the only American rider in the field. 2006 MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden, who rides for the DRIVE M7 Aspar Honda team, will miss Indianapolis and at least one more MotoGP round after having surgery to remove three bones from his right wrist.
Leon Camier will replace Hayden while he rehabilitates his wrist.
"It's been three weeks yesterday since the operation, and I'm going to go back to the doctor this week and then I'll know a little bit more about when I'll be back," Hayden said Thursday. "I'll definitely be back this season.
"I'm getting healthy, so no moping around this weekend. I'll just be out here watching some racing and getting ready to come back soon."
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