As two former World MotoGP™ World Champions Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo congratulated Fabio Quartararo in pit lane and Valentino Rossi embarked on an emotional final lap in Italy at Misano, the transition was complete. MotoGP™ has raced into a new era to keep ahead of the game. As much as we, especially people of my age, dislike the fact we are getting older, to survive you have to support change and progress. On Sunday afternoon on the Adriatic coast of Italy there was the perfect example of what that means to MotoGP™.
Fabio Quartararo, the first French Premier class World Champion, the sixth youngest winner in the 73-year history of the World Championship. Three times premier class Champion Lorenzo was the last Yamaha rider to take the title six years ago. Six times MotoGP™ World Champion Marquez, who helped Spain win a record-breaking nine successive premier class titles. Seven times premier class winner Rossi whose legion of fans doffed trilby hats to their hero as he completed that final lap on Italian soil.
What a day for Quartararo and France. Only three other French riders had won a premier class race before the new World Champion arrived on the MotoGP™ scene just three years ago. Never did I envisage a French premier class World Champion when I witnessed Christian Sarron winning at Hockenheim in 1985 and Regis Laconi at Valencia in 1999. For both it was their only MotoGP™ win and that was the same for the first French premier class winner Pierre Monneret who won the 500cc 1954 French Grand Prix at Reims riding a Gilera. Rather like Spain until the arrival of Alex Criville, France had tasted success in the smaller classes but was never regarded as a MotoGP™ threat. Johann Zarco won the Moto2™ World titles in 2015/16. Jean – Louis Tournadre won the 250cc title in 1982 followed by Christian Sarron two years later and Olivier Jacque in 2000. Arnaud Vincent was crowned 125cc World Champion in 2002 and Mike Di Meglio six years later. That has all changed and start queuing just after Christmas to get into the French Grand Prix at Le Mans in May next year
To fully understand just what this means to Quartararo and France just check a couple of facts. France is just the seventh country in the 73 years history of the sport to produce a premier class World Champion. The first five are easy to recognize – Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Australia and America but Gary Hocking’s 1961 500cc title for Rhodesia is often forgotten. The new World Champion joins a very special club. Aged 22 years 187 days old Quartararo is just the sixth youngest premier class World Champion. Marc Marquez, Freddie Spencer, Casey Stoner, Mike Hailwood and John Surtees were younger.
Congratulations Fabio, you have joined a very exclusive club and all of them went on to win more World titles. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t do the same. We will always salute progress and the new Champions, but we must never forget the old heroes whose skill dedication and bravery has put this sport where it is today. Some have paid the ultimate price to pave the way for progress and the crowning of a new World Champion.