MotoGP: Marini and Marquez seek to follow sibling success

Luca Marini and Alex Marquez are two young riders looking to make the leap into the prestigious MotoGP circuit. If it wasn’t hard enough, they’ve also got to deal with being the siblings of two MotoGP legends. Will they follow in their brothers’ footsteps? Or will they crumble under the pressure of living up to the family name? By Jade du Preez

Luca Marini (left) with half-brother Valentino Rossi (right)

If living in the shadow of an older brother is hard, following them into the same profession is even worse. This hardship was all too inevitable for Luca Marini and Alex Marquez, whose respected brothers are legends of MotoGP already. Marini, half brother of Valentino Rossi, wasn’t even born when Rossi landed his first victory in the 1996 Czech Republic 125cc race, and by the time Alex Marquez joined the big leagues in 2013, his brother Marc was already making podium appearances.

It’s clear they knew what they were getting themselves into, but having siblings share a track isn’t something new for MotoGP, just look at South Africa’s Brad and Darryn Binder and Spain’s Pol and Aleix Espargaró, but Rossi and Marquez aren’t just any riders. They are legends, considered to be some of the best of all time, with 15 World Championship titles between them, spanning from 1997 to 2017.

Valentino Rossi has been racing for 21 years, winning his first title the year his half-brother was born, while Marc Marquez is MotoGP’s youngest ever four-time World Champion and is the current World Champion. These are not mere riders, but record setters and history makers.

Neither Marquez or Marini seem to mind, though. Rossi helped Marini find a foothold on the MotoGP circuit by allowing onto his racing team VR46 Riders Academy and giving his access to his personal flat track, a privilege that most riders would pay an arm and a leg for. He also largely leapfrogged his way past the Moto3 category, only racing once on an FTR Honda before hopping on a Kalex in 2015 in the Moto2 class.

Marc Marquez has a similar closeness to his brother, but his influence is less obvious. If he has given Alex a helping hand, then it’s been on the down low and not broadcast for the rest of the world to see. Marc is still young at 24 years old and doesn’t have a track outside of his house to offer. In this respect, they live very different lives, Marc still has many years ahead of him and lives a relatively quiet life in comparison to Valentino Rossi who has had an illustrious career spanning decades, has dated underwear models and splashed out on fast cars and villas in Ibiza. He has been one of the highest paid athletes in the world for many years now.

Looking to the future, this could have been Alex Marquez’s year. He finished fourth in Moto2, upon a Kalex bike, winning three races and successfully starting all bar one race of the season. But it was his teammate, Franco Morbidelli, who rode away with the 2017 Moto2 crown.

Had he won the championship, he could have seen himself bumped up to the premier class like Morbidelli. Could this be a look at things to come? Inevitably Alex will join his older brother in the premier class in the next few years but whether that is with a Moto2 title to his name is a different and unpredictable story. However, it seems more likely than Marini at the present.

At least for Marini there is a level of anonymity, should he seek it, as he doesn’t share the infamous Rossi name. He finished the 2016 Moto2 season in 23rd place and improved this by finishing in 15th in 2017, but there is still a long way to go for the rider who is only one year younger than Alex Marquez, but has raced two fewer seasons. His accent into the MotoGP class looks like it could be closer to 2020/2021 unless his pulls out a phenomenal 2018 season.

If Alex Marquez couldn’t get promoted and he finished 4th last year, then finishing 15th isn’t going to cut it. He needs to qualify better. His best last season was 4th but he often hung around in the teens. Morbidelli only qualified outside of the top 3 four times in 2017, but in 2016 only qualified in the top 3 four times, so this kind of transformation can be done. It’s not impossible, but it’s where he needs to start so that he has more of an explosive advantage on the grid. He also needs to finish more races, he didn’t finish the 1st lap of 4 races in 2017 and even though risk taking is often encouraged, he won’t win points if he doesn’t finish races.

Either good genes have come into play or these racing families are just talented, but there is real potential for Marini and Alex Marquez. They might struggle to reach the history book levels of their famous siblings but they are the best of the best so it would be a hard ask of anyone, let alone their own brothers. It is worth keeping an eye on them though, you never know if some of the Marquez magic or Rossi determination will wear off on them in time for the 2018 season.

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