Fabio Quartararo Ready To Steal The Headlines At Le Mans

The MotoGP rookie prodigy heads to France.

Fabio Quartararo
Fabio Quartararo is the youngest rider ever to score a pole in MotoGP.Yamaha Petronas

It's easy to lose contact with reality when even Dorna, MotoGP rights holder, changes the rules so that you can enter the World Championship one year earlier than the minimum age requirement. This happened to Frenchman Fabio Quartararo who, aged just 15, joined the Moto3 World Championship after having won the FIM CEV Championship in Spain for two consecutive years, in 2013 and 2014.

Acclaimed as the "new Marc Márquez," Quartararo had to deal with astronomical pressure before even learning how the new class worked. It was not an easy task, but the kid seemed to adapt quickly and he was on the podium in just his second race. He repeated that in Assen after claiming pole at both Jerez and Le Mans, but unfortunately a late-season ankle injury halted his progress. Quartararo changed teams the following year but results were not as expected, finishing 13th that year. The rising star also didn't shine when he moved up to Moto2 in 2017 with 13th yet again.

With only one GP win under his belt (Barcelona 2018), the choice of the 20-year-old rider by Petronas Yamaha SRT to compete alongside Franco Morbidelli raised doubts. Despite joining MotoGP after three difficult years, the pressure to deliver was instant—at least to disprove those who already saw him as a meteor instead of a rising star.

Considering Quartararo’s young age and limited experience, the team took him in hand. “We started from the basics, explaining to him every single action we were doing on the bike, and proceeding step by step so that he could start to understand and feel the setup changes and become more and more sensitive to the bike,” his chief mechanic Diego Gubellini states. “Fabio impressed me for his approach. He always tries to adapt to the bike, and not the other way round. If lap times are not coming, he asks, ‘What can I do to improve?’ It’s a winning attitude that belongs to the champions. Secondly, he is a racing animal. He is very lucid and focused throughout the race. I realized it from the precision and the details he explains afterward in the briefings.”

Diego Gubellini
Chief mechanic Diego Gubellini says Quartararo has the attitude of a champion with precision and detail.Yamaha Petronas

The breakthrough arrived in Spain when—at 20 years and 14 days—Quartararo became the youngest-ever premier-class rider to claim pole position, a record that used to belong to Honda’s seven-time world champion Marc Márquez. Is this a sign of fate?

“It’s very exciting, but I can’t be compared to Marc Márquez,” the French rookie said with a hint of embarrassment. “It is very exciting, and it’s certainly a motivation. Marc is the reference in MotoGP. He has something more than the others, so it’s incredible to have set a faster lap time. The team did an incredible job. I have a very good feeling with the Yamaha, and since November we made very small changes on the bike. I just need to learn and gain experience.”

Jerez Quartararo taking the pole
At Jerez Quartararo took pole position. Can he repeat this weekend at Le Mans.Yamaha Petronas

Betrayed by a broken gear-lever rod when he was second behind Márquez at Jerez, “El Diablo”—as the Quartararo has been called since his time in the junior classes—returned to the garage crying.

With the MotoGP circus heading to Le Mans this week, expectations are high for the baby prodigy on his home turf, riding for redemption after a technical issue that prevented him from the race of his life. No doubt the home crowd will be behind him every lap—at a track where Yamaha has often been victorious. The French fans, who have followed his career since he was a kid competing in Spain, will be on his side, overshadowing fellow countryman Johann Zarco who is in deep crisis after he switched to KTM.

“Fabio is ready to steal the headlines in France,” Gubellini reveals. “His lighthearted attitude doesn’t show signs of nervousness. As usual, he will enter the garage saying hi to the mechanics in their own language, playful as a kid of his age who is doing what he likes most in life.”

As the meetings in the garage end, he returns playing the PlayStation. Blessed youth!