Marc Marquez shoots down running Dakar Rally on bike

In 2022, Danilo Petrucci became the first MotoGP rider to win a stage at the Dakar Rally. But a former colleague achieving great things at the legendary rally raid does not move the needle for six-time champion Marc Márquez, at least not with the vehicle on which he made his career.

In an interview with Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE) programme Teledeporte, Márquez said he is a big fan of the Dakar Rally who followed the 2023 edition from start to finish, and would be more than happy to give it a shot once his MotoGP career comes to a close. The only caveat, however, is that he would only do it on four wheels in an FIA category like a car or SSV.

“I will never race it on a motorcycle, I know myself and it would hurt me,” said Márquez with a laugh. “In motorsport, with the running and adrenaline, you’re signing up for a bombardment. The Dakar is a race that gives a lot of respect, it’s not just, ‘Come on, I’m going to go race Dakar.’

“There is prior preparation needed, you have to try to find your way. Another thing is that I am competitive, I don’t like to lose even in Parcheesi. When you go to a race, it is to do well and push, and there is a lot of pressure from the media.”

Márquez is one of the top riders in Grand Prix motocycle history with eight championships including six at the MotoGP level between 2013 and 2019. While he does not have rally raid experience, he also enjoys competing in non-pavement disciplines like motocross, which he has credited with helping him hone his riding style in MotoGP. His motocross dabbling allowed him to connect with fellow Spanish Honda rider Joan Barreda, who Márquez cheered for during the 2023 Rally until his crash and retirement in Stage #9.

“[Joan] is a rider who does not lack speed; he has an innate speed that I envy many times when we do motocross,” Márquez said of Barreda, winner of Stage #4. “He was capable of doing unthinkable things. It’s clear that Dakar is not won by the fastest, but by who is best prepared, has the best strategy, and at the same time, the most luck. That luck has not been with Joan these years.”

Despite his accolades and adding that he “likes everything motorcycle,” he has little interest in riding one should he attempt the Rally. Still, he would not mind trying it in a car should he feel the time and circumstances align. In fact, after Barreda’s exit, Márquez noted he turned his attention to another Spaniard Gerard Farrés, who raced a Can-Am in the T4 category and finished fifth overall.

“Maybe in the future. I haven’t thought about it at the moment,” he continued. “But I assure you that on a motorcycle, I won’t even consider it, not even to try to finish it, because you’re going to compete and you need prior preparation and experience. It’s the toughest race in the world.”

A switch presents its own challenges as Márquez opined he would “have a hard time adapting” to having a co-driver. He recalled raising the topic with Carlos Sainz, a four-time Dakar Rally champion who won Stage #1 in 2023 but fractured his vertebrae in a Stage #9 accident.

“I live in Madrid and I converse with him a lot in the gym, and he was preparing for Dakar as if it were his first,” Márquez recounted. “I often asked him how he trusted the co-driver so much, and he told me that he is vital for him. He is his right hand and right foot, the gas is the co-pilot, you have to trust him. It’s what would cost me the most, getting used to these signs, driving, and listening to someone.”

Motorcycle racers making the jump to four-wheeled cars is not a new phenomenon. After their retirements, fellow World Champions Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo switched to sports cars. Some like Petrucci have took their skills off-road, though Petrucci has continued his pavement career in the World Superbike Championship. James Hillier, a 2013 Isle of Man TT winner and British Superbike competitor, entered the 2023 Dakar Rally in the Malle Moto class for riders without outside help and finished thirteenth.