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.