Rookie Marc Marquez gets 1st MotoGP victory

Updated: April 21, 2013, 5:57 PM ET
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- Marc Marquez stood on the podium and was doused with champagne. Then he took two big swigs from the giant bottles, even though under Texas law he's not old enough to drink.

Not that anyone was going to stop this rising Spanish star from celebrating.

Honda's 20-year-old rookie earned his first MotoGP victory Sunday at the Grand Prix of the Americas to become the youngest winner in motorcycle racing's top level.

Marquez started in pole position but had to overtake teammate Dani Pedrosa with nine laps to go and held him off to win in 43 minutes, 42.123 seconds. Pedrosa finished second, 1.534 seconds behind.

After capturing the checkered flag, Marquez stood on his bike and wildly waved his arms to the crowd. Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi pulled up next to him to offer congratulations, a handshake between a racing legend and the swashbuckling rider of the future.

"The first victory is always different," Marquez said. "Your confidence changes a little bit."

Not that he needs any.

Last season's world champion in Moto2, Marquez has made a blistering debut among MotoGP's elite riders. He finished third in the season-opening race at Qatar and followed that by becoming the youngest MotoGP rider to earn pole position.

Marquez replaces American "Fast Freddie" Spencer as MotoGP's youngest premier level winner. Spencer also was 20 when he won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982.

His victory Sunday also pushed him to the top of the championship standings with 41 points, tied with defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who won in Qatar. Pedrosa is third with 33 to out an early-season dominance of Spanish riders..

But Marquez still had to fight back from a rookie mistake to win Sunday and could have lost the race almost as soon as it began.

Seconds after the start, Marquez drifted high into the elevated first turn. Pedrosa had started in the No. 2 spot and the crafty rider with 22 career victories spotted the opening. Pedrosa quickly ducked underneath Marquez to his left to seize the lead before the riders started their 100-foot descent.

Marquez briefly drifted back to third before pulling back up behind his teammate.

From there, the race was a Honda duel as Pedrosa and Marquez pulled away from the field on the Circuit of the Americas track that was built for Formula One race cars. Lorenzo had predicted his Yamaha would struggle to keep up with the Hondas and he was right as he finished more than three seconds behind Marquez.

"I was behind and maybe in the beginning I could've been faster," Marquez said. "Many times I was close to crashing, especially on the right side and it was a little scary."

Pedrosa held off the rookie as long as he could until Marquez passed him on a tight left turn on lap No. 12. They continued to battle for position for several laps before Pedrosa began to drift behind. Pedrosa said he was happy to be on the podium after Marquez edged him for third in Qatar.

"Having the chance to win the race is a big relief after the first race. Somehow in Qatar and also here, I had some problems with the bike and with confidence," Pedrosa said.

Lorenzo, who won two world titles and 24 Grand Prix races, can see the youthful exuberance and aggression in his new rival.

"When you (are) 20 years and a rookie in MotoGP, you see things in a different way. You are not afraid to crash," Lorenzo said. "When you get a little older, you start to be more cautious about the risk and you have more experience so you calculate the risk."

Marquez said he'll try to take the victory in stride. While most expect many more victories, it's a long season with 16 races left on the schedule.

"Now will be more difficult," Marquez said. "We can't forget that we'll be at some tracks that will be more difficult for us."


Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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