On Sunday, August 5, at Automotodrom Brno in the Czech Republic, Marc Márquez—25 years and 169 days old—will contest his 100th MotoGP race. Márquez’s 40 race wins and four world titles are impressive, but how do they compare with the first 100 premier-class races of fellow multi-time champions Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi, Mick Doohan, Eddie Lawson, and Giacomo Agostini? Are Márquez’s achievements really that spectacular?
Márquez has been breaking records since he arrived in MotoGP, and considering his age and skill level, his future looks even brighter. I scrutinized Marquez’s first 100 MotoGP races and compared them to the same period for other top riders, but I only included those who had participated in at least 100 races in the 500cc and/or MotoGP classes and won more than one world title.
That criteria excluded multi-time world champions who never completed 100 races, such as Kenny Roberts (58), Mike Hailwood (59), Wayne Rainey (83), and Barry Sheene (87). The reason none of these riders reached 100 races is mostly due to the fact that, during their respective careers, comparatively few races were held each season. In addition, riders’ careers were generally shorter than they are now.
This is Márquez’s sixth season in MotoGP—his 11th in Grand Prix racing if you count his passage through the smaller-displacement 125cc and Moto2 ranks. Roberts was in the championship for six years; Rainey also raced 500s for six years. Fellow American Freddie Spencer, whose spectacular accounts of precocity remained until the arrival of Márquez, participated in 62 500cc races.
Let’s forget the exceptions and move on to the comparison. Agostini is at the top of my list of winners in the first 100 GPs. The accompanying table helps to explain that position of privilege: From 1968 to 1972, Agostini won every 500cc race in which he finished. This is evidence that, in those seasons, the overall level of competitive machinery in that class was relatively low.
When Rossi reached 100 GPs, he had one more title than his Spanish rival and 14 more victories. So much time has passed since then that even those of us lucky enough to see the races in person have nearly forgotten what Rossi’s first 100 premier-class races were like. When Rossi reached that milestone, he had earned an incredible 78.2 percent of the championship points that were available to him at the time.
Márquez, meanwhile, has never won more than six races per season, except in 2014, his second year in MotoGP, when he recorded the greatest number of victories in a single season: 13. Doohan is another rider who factors heavily in this comparison. The five-time 500cc world champion reached 100 GPs prior to 1997, a season in which he had 12 victories (another record broken by Márquez).
Márquez is also the youngest rider in this comparison, an indication of how much the number of races per season has impacted the time it has taken a top rider to arrive at this milestone. Agostini reached his 100th GP at 33 years old. Lorenzo and Stoner reached the same mark at age 26. Márquez, however, is just 25 years old. His next target, the 150th GP, could arrive in as few as three seasons. Who will he have surpassed by then?