A large parking lot transformed into a track thanks to piles of used tyres, the little riders have helmets so big that they look like cartoon characters and are practically hanging onto the handlebars of motorbikes that seem to have been lent to them by their older brother. It's 2001, and in the video, we can see the footage of that promotional competition and two well-known faces.
There is Marc Marquez, who, having not yet refined his rescue technique, hits the ground a bit too often, and there is Pol Espargarò, who gets the bike all out of shape when entering the corner like it was a 500cc. Anyone who believes in destiny will say that it had already been written and 20 years later the two Spaniards will be closer than they could have imagined (and even dreamed about) that day.
After a life spent crossing each other’s paths and clashing, in one year’s time they might be in the same box, that of the Repsol Honda team. It will not be the first time with the same colours, and even on a Honda. We have to go back in time, to the beginning of the Spanish championship, but the photo had already been taken, with a Japanese 125 bike and coloured yellow. The numbers, however, were already the ones we know: 93 for Marquez and 44 for Espargarò.
The two, moreover, have more in common than we think. Both Catalans, Marc from Cervera in the hinterland and Pol from Granollers closer to the sea, were born a couple of years apart but, especially as far as we are concerned, they are part of a racing family, with their brothers also in MotoGP. Something more unique than rare in theory, but reality exceeds fantasy.
Both then, are the most talented ones in the family (the records confirm it), with the only difference that Pol is the younger brother (Aleix is two years older) and Marc the older (Alex – without an 'i', they almost have brothers with the same name - has three less).
The path that brought them to the World Championship can be virtually overlapped: the passage (and success) in the Spanish championship and then the arrival in 125. Pol entered 2 years before Marc but took a while to get going; 2010 was the last season for both in the cadet class, with the first title for Marquez and 3rd place for Espargarò.
The first real challenge between the two was in 2012, in Moto2. At Barcelona, the home GP, Pol arrived in the lead of the championship, one point ahead of Marc. In the race there was a clash between the two: at turn 10 Marquez tried to pass Luthi; he risked crashing, returned to his trajectory and crashed into Espargarò, knocking him to the ground. The Race Direction punished him with a minute penalty, which was then removed after the team's appeal, at which point the Pons team (for which Pol was racing) also appealed but lost.
History says that Marc won that championship, but Espargarò managed to win the title the following year, before joining his rival in MotoGP.
From then on, their paths have rarely crossed. Pol had two good (but not exceptional) years with the Yamaha of the Tech3 team before accepting KTM's call for its debut in the premier class. An uphill project, with the only satisfaction of a podium in 2018 in Valencia, while there is no need to waste space and words for Marquez's curriculum over these years.
Now the two riders could have a face-to-face Face/Off and on the same bike. Marc's previous teammates have not had an easy life (to put it mildly), for Pol it will be the opportunity of a lifetime to join Honda, but perhaps also the greatest risk.