Although motorcycle racing is often unpredictable and clearly without "sure things," it would take very good odds to entice anyone to bet against Marc Márquez at this weekend's Grand Prix of Aragón at the MotorLand circuit in Spain. If Márquez doesn't win at MotorLand, it will be an upset, because the Aragón track is one of only five races on the 2018 schedule that has more left-hand corners (10) than right-hand corners (7). So far this season, there have been two left-hand tracks, Circuit of The Americas and Sachsenring, and Márquez has won at both while winning only three GPs on the 10 right-hand tracks.

That could be a single-season anomaly, a quirk. It could if it were not for the fact that Márquez’s five seasons and 12 races in the MotoGP class show an undeniable preponderance of wins on tracks that have more left-hand turns than right-hand turns, and Márquez himself is the first to acknowledge his preference for going left.

When the riders were asked at the pre-race press conference in Austria to draw their ideal racetracks, Márquez whipped out a seven-corner semi-oval with all left-hand turns and told the journalists, “If I had to make a track, it would be this oval, all left-handers and very, very slick and fast. No doubt about it!” And a look at Márquez’s record on left- and right-hand tracks reveals the blatantly asymmetrical talent of the reigning champion and point leader. While he is very good on tracks with more right-hand than left-hand corners, he is almost unbeatable on tracks that have more left- than right-hand corners.

Marc Márquez
Marc Márquez has a strong record at MotorLand Aragón, which will host this weekend’s round of the world championship. The 25-year-old Spaniard has won three of the last five MotoGP races at the Alcañiz track, including the 2017 event.Courtesy of Honda

Let’s just throw the numbers out there first and then break them down. Márquez burst onto the scene in 2013, becoming the first rider since Kenny Roberts to win the premier-class title in his rookie year (and Roberts was, until then, the only rider to accomplish this other than, obviously, Leslie Graham, the very first 500cc world champion in 1949). Since then, the 25-year-old from Cervera, Spain, has won four MotoGP titles and is almost certainly bound for his fifth.

His overall winning percentage is, at least for the moment, a lofty 39.2 percent on the basis of 40 wins in 102 starts. Among riders of the “modern era” (1973 to the present) only two men, both retired, have higher winning rates: Roberts, who won 40 percent of his 55 starts, and Mick Doohan, winner of 54 GPs in 137 starts for a 39.4 winning percentage.

Márquez and Pedrosa
Márquez is undefeated at Circuit of The Americas. He’s seen here (left) celebrating his inaugural victory at the Texas track in 2013 with Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and again this past April (right) hoisting a Nicky Hayden flag on the victory lap.Courtesy of Honda

But when we divide tracks into those that are majority right-hand and majority left-hand turning, we discover a disparity far too striking to be coincidence. Márquez, to date, has won 25.3 percent of his starts on right-hand tracks and a startling 70.9 percent of his starts on left-hand tracks.

Here are the numbers:

Win chart
Marc Márquez’s MotoGP Winning Percentages Overall And On Left- And Right-Hand TracksIllustration by Robert Martin

If we look at qualifying success of left-hand and right-hand tracks, the contrast is even greater.

Qualifying chart
Marc Márquez’s MotoGP Qualifying Percentages On Left- And Right-Hand TracksIllustration by Robert Martin

One other peculiarity in Márquez’s stats is his absolute dominance on US tracks. Since he stepped up to MotoGP in 2013, he has won all 10 starts in the US, going six for six at COTA, three for three at Indy, and winning his only time out at Laguna Seca. He also won twice in two starts at Indy in his Moto2 days and took the pole and set fastest lap in 125cc at Indianapolis in 2010 but crashed out while leading. During his 2009 rookie year in 125, he was only sixth at Indianapolis but the top KTM. In all, Márquez, over three classes, has started 14 races in the US and won 12 of them, just over 85 percent—all on left-hand tracks and in line with his general domination on tracks than turn toward the clutch-side of the bike.

Maybe, someone suggested, Márquez just has an affinity for racing in the USA. Maybe, but it would be logical to think that he’d also feel at home in Europe or, more especially, in Spain. In European MotoGP races, however, Márquez has won 23 of 66 (34.8 percent) and in races outside Europe 17 of 36 (47.2 percent). And, while he has a perfect MotoGP class record in the USA, his home results on Spanish tracks are only eight of 21 (38.1 percent).

The one season that stands out as the exception was that amazing year of 2014 when he won the first 10 in a row. That year he won nine times on right-hand tracks, exactly half of his overall total of wins on tracks with more rights than lefts. Since 2014, Márquez has never won more than three races on right-hand tracks in a single season.

There is no way to avoid the obvious. Márquez, although he is fast everywhere, is significantly more successful when he’s turning left.

Flat-track flagman tribute
Flat-track-flagman tribute: In addition to his 125cc Grand Prix and Moto2 appearances at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Márquez contested three MotoGP races—2013, ’14, and ’15. He won all three premier-class races and both Moto2 events.Courtesy of Honda

The Roberts Influence

Márquez, born in 1993, grew up in Spain during the Àlex Crivillé years when Spanish fans, after decades and decades of seeing their racing heroes limited to the smaller classes, were finally starting to dream the big 500cc dreams. In 1992 at Assen, Crivillé became the first Spanish rider ever to win a 500cc race, and in 1995 Spanish riders won 500cc races at Spanish tracks for the first time: 1) Alberto Puig at Jerez after Doohan crashed; and 2) Crivillé, in the final race of the season at the Circuit of Catalunya, won on the factory Honda ahead of the Hondas of Shinichi Itoh, Loris Capirossi, and the then two-time world champion Doohan.

Those were electric times in what is undoubtedly the most motorcycle-racing-mad country on earth. By the time six-year-old Marc Márquez was in his second year as a kid enduro rider already dreaming of being a roadracer, Crivillé, along with Sete Gibernau, was being tutored in the art of flat-track racing at the Kenny Roberts Training Ranch in Barcelona by the man himself and was occasionally beating Doohan and pushing him hard from the other side of the Repsol Honda garage. When Crivillé finally won the 500cc world championship, he had become a very accomplished flat-track rider and acknowledged that what he learned from Roberts and chief instructor Jimmy Filice at the Roberts Ranch taught him the art of rear-wheel steering and gave him confidence when grip was low.

Márquez’s father, Juliá, guided his son’s early training and made sure that it included flat-track racing on eighth-mile short tracks. Later when Marc began to win in Moto2 and then as he started his MotoGP career, he trained frequently at the Rufea short track near his home of Cervera, often with his younger brother Álex—a top Moto2 rider today—and former Moto2 champion and current (injured) MotoGP regular Tito Rabat.

Spanish journalist and magazine owner Jaime Alguersuari described to me how Márquez set up difficult overtaking drills with Spanish flat-track specialists in order to perfect his “bump-and-run” lunge up the inside. “It was brutal,” Alguersuari said. “He would come up on another rider yelling, ‘I’m going inside. Block me!’ and then pry the rider off line and pass.

Márquez trained hard at Rufea all during 2013 and when he became the youngest premier-class champion (500cc or MotoGP) at the end of that year, he remembered that Alguersuari’s promotions company had, years back, run short-track races at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona (Steve Morehead, “The Findlay Flyer,” won that inaugural Barcelona short track). Márquez called Alguersuari and suggested that he run a “Superprestigio Dirt Track” for Márquez and anybody who wanted to try their luck.

And that is the way it was conceived, an end-of-the-season party, inviting other roadracers and also any motocross, enduro, or, a rare breed, a real European flat-track racer.

That was when Canadian journalist Mark Gardiner issued a Twitter challenge, saying that if Márquez wanted to have a taste of real flat track he should invite then AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Champion Brad Baker. Márquez’s manager, Emilio Alzamora, and HRC executives played that down and hoped Márquez wouldn’t even hear about it, but he read the tweets and thought it was a great idea.

That first Superprestigio Dirt Track went down to the next-to-the-last lap when Márquez, unable to find a way up the inside of Baker, tried something that sometimes worked at Rufea. He tried going around the outside and leaning on Brad going into turn 3. Baker shrugged him off and Márquez went down. I was watching that race very closely because the battle for third between Tito Rabat and my son, Kenny Noyes, became a battle for second. And the Palau went quiet as a tomb.

Márquez was angry when he got back to his pit, but he was angry only with himself. “That guy is really good,” he said, speaking of the AMA number 1. Baker, now working hard in rehab from his serious crash at the X Games, told me afterward. “I wasn’t sure after Marc went down if I was going to get out of town safely.”

Márquez went on to win the second Superprestigio in 2014 from new AMA number 1 Jared Mees, take second to Baker in the third edition in 2015, and then to come back and win one more time in 2016 over Toni Elias and Baker before announcing during the 2017 MotoGP season that he was not going to ride the ’17 Superprestigio, a race that was won by American JD Beach from fellow American Briar Bauman and Spaniard Ferrán Cardús. Alguersuari then announced that, without Márquez, the Superprestigio would not continue.

By then, Márquez was becoming more and more aware that his talent was becoming increasingly imbalanced toward left-hand tracks.

If we accept, as we have little choice but to do, that Márquez is a significantly more efficient rider through left-handers than right-handers, then his rivals will be discouraged by the fact that, as he announced in an earlier interview with Mela Chércoles of AS, a Madrid sports daily, he has decided to begin training on dirt tracks that have a balance of left- and right-hand corners.

Even more discouraging for his current rivals, whose hopes are already slim, is the fact that the final six races of the 2018 season include three left-hand tracks and an overall majority of left-hand over right-hand turns.

Take a deep breath before diving into these numbers: Over the entire 2018 season of 18 races (eliminating the Silverstone rainout), a rider who finishes all races without being lapped would run a total of 445 laps consisting of 2,883 left turns and 3,508 right turns. Over the first 12 races—from Qatar through San Marino—riders took to tracks that had a total of 75 left-handers and 102 right-handers which, multiplied by the total number of laps per Grand Prix, meant that riders completing all laps would run 1,847 left-hand corners and 2,503 right-handers. Only two of these first 12 races had more left-hand turns than right-hand turns and, unsurprisingly, Márquez won in COTA and in Sachsenring, running his perfect record on these two southpaw circuits to 12-0.

On the 10 tracks with a right-hand bias, he won only three times.

His rivals, then, will be troubled to note that half of the remaining six races are majority left-hand tracks and that of the 147 laps yet to be run riders will negotiate 1,036 left-handers and 1,005 right-handers. Over the first 12 races 57 percent of the racing corners have been right-handers. Over the final six races, just over half (50.8 percent) will be left-handers. That may not seem like much, but, given Márquez’s domination at left-hand tracks, it could make a big difference.

This is the kind of data mining that an MLB manager uses to decide whether to bring in a relief pitcher or a pinch hitter. Márquez, if he were a ballplayer, would be too good to lift against right-handers but so dominant against lefties that there would be a temptation to give him an intentional walk against a left-handed pitcher even with the bases loaded (that has actually happened six times in major-league history). But in MotoGP there’s no way to pitch your way around a guy who murders left-handers the way Márquez does.

In addition to the more than merely theoretical advantage of running the final six races on tracks that have between them 42 left-handers and 42 right-handers (as opposed to the 95 right-handers and 72 left-handers over the first 12 races), Márquez will be highly motivated at MotorLand to put a stop to the Ducati three-race winning streak that Andrea Dovizioso and future Honda sidekick Jorge Lorenzo have inflicted since he last won back on July 15 at Sachsenring. (The tricky German track, with 10 left-handers and only three right-handers, is a Márquez ambush where, as at COTA, Márquez has never been beaten.)

The only way to take this title from Márquez now is to force some big mistakes. Maybe, with such a big points advantage, Márquez will settle for lower placings, but nothing that we’ve seen so far indicates that he’ll do anything other than go for wins.

Laguna Seca track
Laguna Seca is another predominantly left-handed American track; only four of the 11 corners turn right. Márquez raced there once, in 2013. He qualified second and stood atop the podium with pole-sitter Stefan Bradl and previous race winner Valentino Rossi.Courtesy of Honda

It is not good news for Márquez’s rivals that the final six races of the season have a leftist bias, but even more concerning is the fact that he has begun to practice on dirt tracks with a mix of lefts and rights, like the “turn tracks” that Earl Hayden laid out down home in Kentucky when the Hayden boys were preparing to go roadracing and like the Tavullia track that Valentino Rossi uses to keep himself sharp at the age of 39. The last thing Márquez’s rivals want to see is Márquez becoming a switch-hitter.

So if anybody will give you even odds on the upcoming Grand Prix of Aragón, the smart money would be on number 93.

Where Would Honda Be Without Marc Márquez?

And, forgetting the lefty/righty element, Honda’s champion is leading Dovizioso, the first of the Ducati riders by a whopping 67 points, leading Yamaha’s best, Rossi, by 70 points, and Ducati’s future HRC Honda rider Jorge Lorenzo by 91 points, but Ducati has matched Honda in wins six to six so far and, were it not for Márquez and his five wins and 10 podiums on the 10 occasions when he has finished, the muted talk of Ducati superiority that has crept into the commentary would be taken as a clear fact.

Two weeks ago in Misano, Márquez said, “It is a good thing Ducati didn’t wake up sooner.” Prior to Lorenzo’s breakout win in Mugello, Ducati had a single win in five starts with the other four wins going to Márquez with three and a single win for Cal Crutchlow.

Since then it has been a very different story, as the following stats illustrate:

Since Mugello
MotoGP Results Since MugelloIllustration by Robert Martin
Top 3
MotoGP Results Since MugelloIllustration by Robert Martin

But, if past performance predicts future outcomes, Marc “Lefty” Márquez, with so many sweet left-hand corners beckoning, will probably mask the full extent of Ducati superiority, at least over the rest of 2018.