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Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Fabio Quartararo is a rookie by name but that’s about it. The 20-year-old might have missed out on his final opportunity of creating some MotoGP™ history by becoming the youngest ever race winner but a Grand Prix victory does seem like a matter of when not if. Second place today served as sweet revenge for his Jerez nightmare earlier in the season.
Incredibly, at just his first visit to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya aboard a Yamaha M1, the Frenchman finished inside the top two of all seven premier class sessions. That, of course, included a second pole position and a debut podium finish, meaning the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya was nothing short of being a dream weekend for the rookie sensation.
“Well, really incredible,” said Quartararo, fresh from enjoying a first trip to a MotoGP™ podium. “For me the pace at the beginning was not so fast but at the end it was tough, because I was with Danilo [Petrucci] and Alex [Rins]. I managed to get through Danilo at corner three, so I thought this was the moment to make a gap so he couldn’t overtake me at the straight.
“At this moment I had half a second and that was really good because in the last six laps of the race I was pushing like hell and managed to get some really fast lap times. My tyre dropped off a little bit but I’m really happy to be here on my first podium.”
One of the major keys behind Quartararo’s success in Catalonia was his start from pole position. After struggling on the opening laps at his home round in Le Mans and then once again last time out in Mugello, the Frenchman this time was able to take full advantage of his hard work throughout qualifying.
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“First of all, we managed to make our best start of the season, we only lost two positions but after I had a touch with Marc. A bit aggressive, I thought I could overtake him, but I hit him and dropped four positions. I didn’t see the crash; I don’t even know who crashed but I saw a lot of people on the ground.
Once in the fight for the podium, following the heavyweights departures ahead of him, incidentally a crash he admits he “didn’t see” but instead saw “a lot of people on the ground”, the biggest concern was the 20-year-old’s longevity after undergoing arm pump surgery just twelve days ago. However, his fitness held up and was able to eventually break clear of Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
“For me the pain was there a little bit yesterday with no medication but today we did 24 laps. With the motivation of the race, fighting for the podium, fighting with the top guys I think you have other things to think about during the Grand Prix other than the pain. The adrenaline you have in the race is totally different from the pain. With the medication I didn’t feel a lot just the last laps when I was pushing it was, let’s say, a bit hard to do the laps but really happy with how we managed it.
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a place Quartararo holds close to his heart. Multiple Junior World Championship wins en route to securing his first break at this level, a debut Grand Prix victory only twelve months ago and now a first MotoGP™ podium. But, although there was a characteristic beaming smile across his face, he says today’s second place doesn’t quite live up to taking the chequered flag.
“For me, it’s a different feeling but of course your first win is really special. All the people tell me that I was too young to go to MotoGP, that it was a mistake, at this moment was not a tough moment because we know we’ll go to MotoGP but we weren’t, let’s say, sure and now we have two pole positions and now we have a podium so I think we did well to step up to MotoGP.”
What a weekend for El Diablo: pole position, a podium finish, inside the top two in every single session and he got his first MotoGP™ crash out of the way too; he’ll be praying he can go another 6872 kilometres before the next one comes around. Chapeau, Fabio!
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