MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
‘Now we are together again at the top… Honestly, it’s strange!’
Maverick Vinales and Marc Marquez first raced each other 15 years ago. Now they are set to resume their battle, fighting for the biggest prize of them all
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and they are often right. This photo (follow the link) shows three schoolboy racers: an 11-year-old Frenchman called Clement Dunikowski and a couple of younger Spaniards called Maverick Vinales and Marc Marquez.
If life is a game of snakes and ladders, Dunikowski climbed ahead of the others over the next few years, making his Grand Prix debut at Le Mans in 2006, two years before Marquez and five before Viñales. But as the Spaniards kept moving up the ladder, Dunikowski slithered down the slippery snake. He struggled to get backing and faded out of the sport.
The podium photo shows Dunikowski after he had finished second in a round of the Catalan 50cc Metrakit championship, organised by the venerable Penya Motorista Barcelona club. Seven-year-old Viñales won the race, while nine-year-old Marquez finished third. The date is autumn 2002, roughly the same time as Valentino Rossi wrapped up the first four-stroke MotoGP title. The photo suggests Marquez isn’t too happy with the result.
You can understand why. He is two years older than Viñales (though doesn’t look it) and had already graduated from 11-horsepower Metrakit bikes to slightly faster Copa Conti machines. At the end of the year the Metrakit series promoters invited him back for a couple of wildcard rides. However, Metrakit regular Viñales was fully in the groove on the bikes; hence the result. And no kid likes being beaten by a younger kid.
“We had a battle,” says Marquez, who has only a vague memory of racing Viñales around go-kart tracks. “We were at the same level, more or less. I think he won…”
Viñales’ memory is even hazier. “I can’t remember, it’s too long ago,” he grins. “Now we are together again at the top. Honestly, it’s strange!”
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.