Do giants shrink with age? Is that how young giants can scramble onto their shoulders?
Put it another way, can Marc Marquez (or even Valentino Rossi) be considered the Greatest Of All Time? If so, what about those GOATs who went before, who never had his opportunities, or indeed the opportunity to race against him?
It may be irresistible to compare ancient racing with modern; ancient heroes with today’s, but it is invidious.
Take one example. Geoff Duke was a landmark rider who set new standards in several areas. He was a multi-champion not only because of his super-smooth riding style. Duke pioneered one-piece leathers after watching fellow factory Norton riders’ cumbersome riding kit flapping in the wind, adding drag and costing speed. It was just the most obvious example of a new professionalism.
The first of Duke’s four titles came on a factory Manx Norton: a single-cylinder 500cc bike eventually producing somewhere not far north of 50 horsepower. Around about a fifth of a modern 1000cc MotoGP bike and, funnily enough, round about the same as a 250cc single-cylinder Moto3 bike. A GP starter machine for teenagers, but much lighter and consequently much faster than the Manx. Not to mention the tires and suspension.
How could you possibly compare?
Mike Hailwood also raced a Norton, and by the way Barry Sheene finished his career, in the short years before his untimely death, on a Norton, as a classic-race winner.
So there is a comparison, then. A good rider is a good rider, no matter what he happens to be riding. Not even Duke, Hailwood or Marquez could win on anything, however – a fact proved with uncomfortable clarity by Rossi, in his two-year Ducati sojourn.
To read more of In The Paddock in this week’s Cycle News, click here