Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) has his first World Championship match point at the upcoming Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell'Emilia-Romagna, and if the Frenchman can claim the crown, he’ll be joining an exclusive 16-rider club.
El Diablo caught the eyes of the motorcycle racing world when he became a double FIM CEV Moto3™ Junior World Champion in 2013 and 2014. It was no surprise when he made his Grand Prix debut in 2015 that expectations were high. However, a title in Moto3™ and Moto2™ never came to fruition before Quartararo moved to MotoGP™ in 2019 with Petronas Yamaha SRT.
It’s fair to say Quartararo took to the premier class like a duck to water. And now, in 2021, the 22-year-old is close to claiming the MotoGP™ title. If Quartararo is able to fend off title rival Francesco Bagania (Ducati Lenovo Team) between now and the chequered flag in Valencia, he’d be the 17th rider to claim the premier class crown without winning a title in the lightweight or intermediate class.
In fact, Quartararo has a chance of becoming the first European rider to do exactly that since Franco Uncini in 1982. The last three riders to win a MotoGP™ World Championship – Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Jorge Lorenzo – have all won at least one title while climbing the ladder to the pinnacle.
However, as we know, there’s no set way to become a MotoGP™ World Champion. Casey Stoner is considered by many to be one of the greatest riders ever to grace the sport, but the Australian never won a 125cc or 250cc title. 2006 MotoGP™ King, the late, great Nicky Hayden, didn’t even race in the lower classes on his journey to becoming a much-adored title winner.
Kenny Roberts Jr and his father Kenny Roberts are two other MotoGP™ Legends in that club, as are fellow Legends Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Freddie Spencer, Uncini, Marco Lucchinelli, and Barry Sheene. 1957 500cc World Champion Libero Liberati, double World Champion Umberto Masetti (1950 & 1952) and, of course, the first-ever premier class World Champion, Leslie Graham in 1949, are the other three names on the list.
So, will Quartararo add his name to that list of World Champions? Time will tell.
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