When I realised that Marc Marquez was the oldest rider on the front row of the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, and then the oldest rider on the podium after winning the race the next day, it was plain for all to see that we are witnessing the changing of the guard once again.
It only seemed like yesterday Marquez had exploded into the MotoGP™ class to blow the establishment apart. The youngest ever premier class winner, the youngest ever pole setter and the youngest ever World Champion. In fact, it was six years ago in 2013, and the milestones he laid down in that memorable season, that are being challenged and, in some cases, rewritten.
The youngest ever pole setter crown was the first to go when Frenchman Fabio Quartararo riding the Petronas SRT Yamaha pipped teammate Franco Morbidelli and Marquez for pole position in Jerez. I wanted to say teenager Quartararo, but he’d celebrated his 20th birthday just a couple of weeks earlier. It was still enough, however, to become the youngest ever MotoGP™ pole setter. Alongside him, teammate Morbidelli was a positively old 24-years-old while Marquez will soon be checking out his pension rights at 26-years-old.
The World Champion’s total domination of the race the next day put him at the top of the standings to put ‘the youngsters’ back in their place, but with Alex Rins second and Maverick Viñales third he was still the oldest rider on the podium.
Three weeks earlier, 23-year-old Rins won his first MotoGP™ race at Austin for Ecstar Suzuki with 24-year-old Jack Miller putting the Pramac Ducati on the podium. It was four years earlier Miller had jumped from the Moto3™ class, missing out Moto2™, to dive straight into the MotoGP™ melting pot.
It’s such a healthy situation and really does illustrate the strength of the whole MotoGP™ structure with a real path to the ultimate MotoGP™ test through Moto3™ and Moto2™. In addition to Quartararo, both former Moto3™ World Champion Joan Mir and current Moto2™ World Champion Pecco Bagnaia arrived in the MotoGP™ class. There are plenty more chomping at the bit to be given the chance.
Records are there to be broken and statistics rewritten, especially in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Over the years we have marvelled at youngsters such as Mike Hailwood, Freddie Spencer and then Valentino Rossi and Marquez rewriting the history books. The next generation is on its way, but they still have a long way to go. The ‘older generation’ are not going to just lie down and let them take over – they never did.
The changing of the guard may have started but those youngsters will have to add patience to their considerable repertoire. The likes of Rossi, double the age of Quartararo, Andrea Dovizioso and Marquez are not going to welcome them and let them waltz into their kingdom and steal all the jewels without one hell of a fight.