More than four years have passed since Marc Marquez was riding high at the peak of his dominance in MotoGP… and a lot has happened in that time.
We’ve seen Marquez battling injury woe after injury woe while he wearily rode out Honda’s protracted decline in competitiveness. Hell, even we as an entire planet have lived through a global pandemic in those four years…
And yet, it really doesn’t seem all that long ago that Marquez stood proud as the MotoGP benchmark, a period of dominance so emphatic that it took Marc Marquez himself to bring an end the era of Marc Marquez.
Indeed, Marquez is arguably the last remaining 'relic' of a bygone time in MotoGP when 'aliens' conquered the podium every weekend, there was a defined margin between factory and private teams and rivalries became so suspicious that even team-mates would be separated by walls in their own garages. Today, there is barely a kerb dividing teams racing out of the same brand stable.
It was also a time when loyal brand allegiances still carried immense weight and would lead to scenarios where Marquez is penning an unprecedented five-year contract, a striking measure of how highly both he and Honda (once) valued one another back in 2019 when it felt as though the party would never end.
So while times do of course change, it doesn't prevent the sight of Marquez riding a Ducati rather than a Honda from playing like a trick of the mind.
Once we're over that, we'll then tackle the notion of six-time MotoGP World Champion Marquez lining up on the grid aboard a ‘used’ Ducati as part of the manufacturer’s ‘C team’.
How time flies...
Marc Marquez has a 'Valentino Rossi motivational poster' in his pit box
Hierarchies aside though, Marquez on a Gresini Ducati arguably makes more sense than him on a factory or Pramac one right now, his absences and the patchy form of the Honda making it difficult to gauge exactly how close he is to be his devastating best.
With this in mind, Gresini Racing represents the best possible environment for him to find his mojo once again. For one, he’ll have a well-proven, fast bike straight out of the box under him on which to throw his customary shapes without fear of either crashing or going the wrong way on development.
He won’t be preoccupied by inter-team wrangles if it’s his brother Alex on the other side of the box, yet still has six direct targets to measure himself against (trans: potentially embarrass) and spur him on in his own inimitable way.
Moreover, while the odds of a satellite team like Gresini Racing winning a MotoGP World Championship title would have earned a tidy pay day a couple of years ago, few would be surprised to see either it, Pramac or VR46 Racing upend the factory entries in 2024.
Better still, becoming World Champion from within a satellite team capacity gives Marquez perhaps his most enticing target to aim for.
Why? Well, the last rider to win a MotoGP/500GP world title on a non-factory nominated machine was Valentino Rossi on the Nastro Azzurro Honda back in 2001. The Italian may longer be around for Marquez to beat on track, but old rivalries still die hard in MotoGP, even in absentia.
Even so, Marquez recognises he is adopting an unfamiliar but tantalising role as an underdog from behind enemy lines this year and, as the past few weeks have shown, it will earn him a lion’s share of the attention when the 2024 MotoGP season gets underway - which will suit him very nicely.
Suffice to say, Marquez has every reason to be happy right now. And if Marc Marquez is happy, Marc Marquez is fast… beware, for the smiling assassin is back!