Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Just how fab is Fabio?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Just how fab is Fabio?

They called him the next Marc Márquez and at Jerez he took an important record from the world champion, so is the Frenchman the most exciting rider to hit MotoGP since 2013?

Fabio Quartararo is the fourth stellar rookie to arrive in MotoGP since Marc Márquez won the championship in his rookie 2013 season. But the 20-year-old Frenchman is different from Márquez, Maverick Viñales and Johann Zarco.

The other three raced and won in 125s or Moto3, raced and won in Moto2 and were quickly promoted to MotoGP. Quartararo’s road to MotoGP was somewhat different. It started well, but later went so badly awry that he might never have made into the class of kings.

His story is a cautionary tale about the fragility of a rider’s talent. Racing isn’t all about what happens on the track and in the garage. Top racers aren’t normal human beings but they are humans nonetheless, subject to the same faults, frailties and emotions as the rest of us. And that applies severalfold to innocent kids, entering a man’s world from which innocence fled many moons ago.

Quartararo’s dad Etienne – a former French champion – bought his four-year-old son a PW50 minibike in 2003. Not long after that they went racing, mostly in Catalunya, where the age restrictions were fewer. When Quartararo was nine he won the Catalan 50cc championship, when he was ten he won the Catalan 70cc title, when he was 12 he won the Catalan 80cc crown, when he was 13 he won the Mediterranean pre-Moto3 series, and when he was 14 he became the youngest winner of the Repsol CEV (Spanish) Moto3 championship.

He retained the CEV crown in 2014, riding for the Monlau team, run by Márquez’s mentor Emilio Alzamora. Inevitably he would move into the Moto3 world championship in 2015. There was only one problem: he had to be 16 at the start of the season. In fact this was no problem. He was so good that the rules were changed to allow CEV winners to contest grands prix at 15.

Many paddock people – who know their stuff – put money on Quartararo winning the world championship in his rookie season, when his rivals included Miguel Oliveira, Romano Fenati, Brad Binder and Danny Kent.

He started well – scoring his first podium in his second GP, taking pole position at Jerez and at Le Mans. And that’s when everything started falling apart. He scored fewer points at the last 14 races that year than he had at the first four.

Everything hit him at once: the pressure of racing against the best riders in the world, week in, week out; then crashes, then doubts, then more crashes and injuries.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 9
Total votes: 9

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Comments

How do you know something is "good"?  It's different for each of us but for me it is when I am drawn to savour something again, be it a taste, a sound, a sight.....a sentence.  And I couldn't help but read sentences like this several times:

"Top racers aren’t normal human beings but they are humans nonetheless, subject to the same faults, frailties and emotions as the rest of us. And that applies severalfold to innocent kids, entering a man’s world from which innocence fled many moons ago."

This is all that keeps me interested in MotoGP, the human story.  I'm pretty much over the generic nature of the machinery, irrelevant technology, the petty squabbles over this winglet vs that spoiler or the other sensor....the human back-story is the only thing that has me tuning in: how have the people I'm interested in fared this week? 

I couldn't care less if there are more Kalex's than Speed Up's on the grid, or that Triumph have replaced Honda as engine supplier (fair do's, I wouldn't be suprised if in 15 years time we're lusting for the long lost scream of an old skool IL4 as we do now for 2T's), or Crutchlow is still waiting on some Sauron-brewed swingarm, but watching Quartararo flame out was heart breaking, an obviously talented young bloke deconstructed before our eyes. 

It seemed like, after the start he's had to the season, the poor kid could fall into a bucket full of nipples and he'd emerge sucking his thumb, so much promise for so little reward. But Mat's great article actually paints a different picture.  Failures, yes, but you get the impression with his current team that the failures are part of his education, a tempering of the blade, part of a process that will eventually build success.  

Wishful thinking?  Maybe, but it makes me want to tune in far more than any talk of spoilers and such like.

 

Total votes: 14

I think El Diablo will get Rossi's seat when he retires and will be the rider to take it to Marquez.  He's already showing signs of brilliance and he is using a 4 year old chassis (Lorenzo then Zarco used).  Some learning, and a higher spec bike and he is going to win races, a lot of them.

Total votes: 6

I'm no expert but I read somwhere that all the bikes are same 2019 spec. though Fab has lesser suspension and revs.

Total votes: 0

Thanks so much for the comments in here. I am laughing, and enjoying the company.

Calling this kid "El Diablo" given his person is initially kind of funny. He is pretty angelic! Then, more ponder, and this tempering of his blade...perhaps the edge of his growing is indeed like stealing from God's purse while he is busy creating grand and difficult scenarios.

On track, he is deceptively understated. One look at a Crutchlow or Miller and you know they are banging at it. Quartararo has just experienced that he can do the big business. This brings something extra. Let's hope his Yamaha can make tires last race distance now. And drive out doesn't get spinning at lower grip tracks.

REALLY interesting period in the sport right now. Very thankful. Hey BrickTop, he isn't on the old 2016-2018 Zarco/Tech3 parts bin special. Hebwas slated to get one of Rossi's 2018 bikes and perhaps get the 2019 engine slotted in until mid February when Yamaha surprised everyone by giving him a 2019 bike. He started with 1000 fewer revs pre season then was dialed up to 500 less revs, as he has fewer engines avail for the year (5?). His forks are one spec lower, but aren't getting any complaints. He isn't scheduled to be getting updates much. But the Yamaha is in a period of mostly electronics updating, which he can get as well albeit 3rd in line.

Still thinking we have a Bagnaia freight train with a bunch of coal for the fire. When we hit the Ducati tracks, he will arrive. Dovi knows his tracks are coming. Crutchlow has a bit more coming as he sorts this bike. Then after mid season we get a Lorenzo in good conditions up front.

Anyone hearing a lovely symphony?

Total votes: 3

Neil Spalding was a guest in the broadcast booth at Jerez during FP2 or FP3 (can't remember exactly) but it was he that stated that Fabio was on the Zarco/Lorenzo chassis.

Total votes: 0