For 2013, the MotoGP grid that has become dull and insipid to the point of being nearly unbearable will get an infusion of excitement that could only be provided by someone like Marc Marquez, who seemingly has as little regard for his body as he does for his racing leathers.
And thank goodness for that. It would be good enough just to see a new face on a factory team, but that that face belongs to a guy like Marquez makes it even better.
Aside form Marquez replacing Casey Stoner in the Repsol Honda garage and Ben Spies' move to a satellite Ducati, the same riders who held all the factory bikes in 2012 will hold them again in 2013, though some of them will be on different teams.
Valentino Rossi has reclaimed his Yamaha M1, this time—and for the first time in his illustrious career—as the clear No. 2 rider behind reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Andrea Dovizioso moves from the satellite Yamaha Tech 3 team to take Rossi's place on the factory Ducati team.
Ben Spies, after his disastrous season aboard the M1, moves to the satellite Pramac Ducati team. He will be on the Desmosedici that even Rossi could not tame, but with new owners Audi in charge, the fortunes of Desmo pilots may soon change.
All of them are great riders, but Rossi's riding style is the only interesting one of the group. Perhaps it is unfair to want motorcycle racers to be both fast and capricious, but it certainly makes for a more entertaining spectacle if they can pull it off.
Lorenzo, once known as a prolific crasher, is now as precise as a surgeon. For my fellow children of the 80s, he can be accurately likened to "Iceman" from the movie Top Gun. He churns out lap after lap of perfect riding, waiting for any riders fortunate enough to be in front of him to make a mistake so he can fly past, seemingly without breaking a sweat.
He is great but rarely exciting to watch.
In 2012, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa exhibited a newfound willingness to fight back when challenged. If he can maintain and even improve on that tenacity through 2013 he will move himself into Rossi and Marquez's group of exciting riders, but we have not seen it consistently enough to count on it yet.
Ducati's Dovizioso is a demon on the brakes but seems reluctant to fight back when things are on the verge of getting chippy. Teammate Nicky Hayden is solid but unspectacular in every way.
So, of the six factory riders, only Rossi can be counted on to provide exciting racing.
How Many Wins Will Marc Marquez Have in 2013?
It wasn't always this way.
As recently as two seasons ago, a guy by the name of Marco Simoncelli brought that necessary element of unpredictability to MotoGP races. That kind of riding makes few friends, and Simoncelli didn't have many in the paddock, but he did have a whole lot of people that looked forward to watching him race on Sundays.
Tragically, Simoncelli died in a crash at Malaysian Grand Prix on October 23, 2011. The cause of the crash was purely bad luck. His bike lost traction while he was going through a right-hand turn, and in an effort to save it he held on instead of letting it slide away from him and off of the track—his body sandwiched between the sliding bike and the pavement. The tires regained traction but Simoncelli could not get back on top of the bike, and his weight hanging off of its right side caused it to veer back across the race track and into the path of the oncoming riders.
His riding style had nothing to do with this wholly inauspicious situation.
Then, roughly a year later, we found out MotoGP would lose another of its prolifically entertaining riders when Casey Stoner announced he would retire at the end of the 2012 season.
To contrast Stoner's and Simoncelli's riding styles is a study in opposite methods to achieve the same end: winning races in an entertaining fashion.
Whereas Simoncelli was high-risk with almost every overtaking maneuver he attempted, Stoner was calculated but aggressive. He would back off if he felt a move was too dangerous, but if it was borderline, he was going through. Casey Stoner was a pitbull who tried to remain fair-minded. Also, his propensity to intentionally break traction with the rear tire and then use it to steer his bike around corners was a thing of beauty every time he did it.
With Simoncelli and Stoner gone, MotoGP was in desperate need of someone to fill that void, to bring some aggressiveness.
Enter Marc Marquez.
Any confrontational rider is going to get criticism from those he has rubbed the wrong way and overly conservative race fans, but what they do is essential to keeping the sport in a healthy state of existence.
Will Marc Marquez pose a danger to other riders? Sure. But so does everyone else on the track. Will the nature of his actions be so egregious as to warrant the kind of backlash he is sure to receive from some race fans and even some of his fellow racers? At times, maybe. But that is the growing process that a young aggressive rider must go through. As he matures, he will learn the difference between acceptable risk and recklessness.
We don't watch races to see a procession of motorcycles. We watch them to see brilliant racing—the full gamut, from the smoothness of Lorenzo to the audaciousness of riders like Marquez and everything in between. To be lacking any aspect would make for an incomplete racing experience.
Marc Marquez is just what MotoGP needs.