Barry Sheene would have not ridden in another Grand Prix this season. Giacomo Agostini would have picked his races. Freddie Spencer never graced another Grand Prix podium while Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi just carried on winning. I don’t think it takes much of an expert to work out which route Marc Marquez will follow after his eighth world title win following that breathtaking victory in Thailand on Sunday.
Sheene realised after winning his two 500cc titles in the seventies he could make more money by actually not competing in many of the last few Grands Prix with some very lucrative appearance deals at home. Ago would miss out riding at some of the dangerous road circuits on the all-conquering 350 and 500cc MV Agustas and who could blame him. After Spencer clinched that historic 1985 250/500cc double by winning the penultimate round of the 500cc Championship at Anderstorp incredibly he never again stood on a Grand Prix podium. Doohan and Rossi just ploughed on and won more and more races after title victories.
The ride I will never forget came from Kenny Roberts Jr in 2000 at Motegi in Japan. Just eight days earlier Kenny had clinched the 500cc world title for Suzuki with a calculated sixth place in the race won by Rossi at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to become the first son to win the same premier class title as his father. It was my first visit to Motegi and Roberts showed us all just why he was the World Champion. Both Roberts and Suzuki knew they had to win the title that year with the young cavalry led by Rossi and Biaggi funded by Honda and Yamaha on the charge. Rossi had won his first 500cc Grand Prix at Donington followed by the Rio win while Biaggi was victorious in Brno. Throw in the likes of sliding Australian Garry McCoy who’d already won three Grands Prix that season on the Yamaha and there were plenty of pretenders to Roberts’s crown wanting to put the World Champion in his place but it never happened. Roberts simply blew them all away round the 4.801 kms circuit to beat Rossi and Biaggi by over six seconds, just to let them know who was the Champion of the world. It turned out to be the last of Kenny’s eight 500cc wins and Rossi took over his mantle. The rest is history but the American had made his point in such a masterful way.
There are still four Grands Prix to go this year and Marquez’ next appearance at the home of Honda in Motegi does not exactly spell out good news for his rivals. Perhaps a certain 20-year-old Frenchman may have something to say about that in the next six weeks.