Every sport can experience an era of dominance from an individual, or a select set of individuals, making it very difficult for the casual fan (let alone the rest of the field) to believe in an upset. In Formula One, Michael Schumacher’s five consecutive world championships with Ferrari at the turn of the millennium prompted a change in the regulations to shake things up. At the same time, Tiger Woods was winning major after major in golf. Roger Federer claimed his first Wimbledon title in 2003, and since then, 41 of the 50 Grand Slam tournaments have been won by Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
In MotoGP, the dominance can be attributed to a ‘group of five’ – Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. These five riders have won fourteen of the last fifteen premier class world championships (Nicky Hayden’s sole triumph in 2006 is the only anomaly).
The fact there has been only six different champions in fifteen years is not a startling statistic in itself; after all, Formula One has only had seven different world champions in the same period. But there are other statistics that do give some indication of how difficult it has been to stop these five riders. Dating back to 2007 (the first year of the 800cc regulations), take note of these points:
- Stoner, Rossi, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Marquez have won 159 of 163 races (97.55%).
- No other rider has won more than a single MotoGP race since the start of the 2007 season (Chris Vermeulen, France 2007; Loris Capirossi, Japan 2007; Andrea Dovizioso, Britain 2009; Ben Spies, Assen 2011).
- Since Spies won in Assen in June 2011, no rider outside the quintet has won a MotoGP race – a staggering 85 races (and counting), or 1,612 days (and counting).
This chart shows the split of race victories since 2007 (by rider).
If the first chart doesn’t highlight how successful Lorenzo, Stoner, Rossi, Pedrosa and Marquez have been, the following one certainly does.
Stoner has, of course, been retired from MotoGP since the end of the 2012 season. Yet even taking this into account, the Australian’s success before his retirement means he is second on the win list from 2007 to date, with 38 victories. Lorenzo leads the list with 41 wins, Rossi has 28, and Pedrosa and Marquez are tied on 26 apiece. Marquez’s tally is remarkable considering he only entered the MotoGP class in 2013.
Despite this era of dominance by the group of five, few would brandish MotoGP as a predictable, foregone conclusion at the start of each race. The exclusivity doesn’t extend to qualifying, either, with Andrea Dovizioso, Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone all fronting the grid at one time or another over the last couple of years. Already in 2016, we’ve seen plenty of excitement at the front of the field (albeit a healthy portion contributed by Iannone’s tendency to try and use other riders as a brake).
What does the future hold? Well, Stoner is retired, and inevitably, Rossi will join him in a couple of years. Pedrosa, whilst quick on any given day on any given track, is brittle. That leaves Lorenzo and Marquez, who will potentially be battling at the front for most of the next decade – and if Lorenzo’s team change turns out the same way as every other rider to join Ducati who isn’t called Casey Stoner, then we may need to find new yardsticks with which to measure Marquez’s roll of honour.
I have heard people say that MotoGP is too predictable because “the same few riders win all the time”. That statement may have some truth (especially if you replace “all the time” with “the vast majority of the time” – 2.45% of races have been won by other riders since 2007, after all) but I think instead of seeing their dominance as a negative, a significant proportion of the MotoGP fanbase are appreciative and actually see it as a positive. In the same way tennis fans love to watch Federer against Djokovic or Nadal, as MotoGP fans, we enjoy watching Rossi battle Lorenzo or Marquez. We know that we are watching riders who aren’t just ranked as the best now; they will go down amongst the best in history. When put in that context, seeing them go toe-to-toe (or foot-to-foot, as in Malaysia last year) is something we should continue to appreciate.
Raw Data (Excel) – list of MotoGP race winners from 2007 to date.
All information correct as of 23rd April 2016.