It was a difficult Sunday for the French in Japan. While France was knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by Wales the mighty impressive Fabio Quartararo clinched the MotoGP™ Rookie of the Year title in Motegi but for the fourth Grand Prix in succession could not beat the rampant Marc Marquez to secure that first premier class victory. Surely that first win will come as rich reward for the 20-year-old during the final three races of the year. He should take heart that others have had to wait longer before the floodgates opened while some who started with a bang never went on the win the ultimate prize.
Mick Doohan had to wait until the penultimate round of the 1990 Championship to secure that first win at the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest in his second season in the 500cc class. The Australian went on to win 53 more on route to five World titles. What a contrast to Max Biaggi who arrived in the 500cc class with a bang at Suzuka in 1998. The Italian had dominated the 250cc Championship for the previous four years and what a premier class debut he made at the opening round of the Championship. Max won comfortably on the Honda to send a shiver down the spine of his rivals to become the first rider in 25 years to win a premier class race on his debut. It was quite a day with Biaggi the first European winner of a Premier class race in Japan but he never went onto win the World title. He won 12 more Grands Prix but in the final reckoning always had to play second fiddle to his bitter rival Valentino Rossi.
Even The Doctor didn’t strike first time out and it after a trip to hospital in nearby Nottingham following a practice crash he won for the first time at the ninth round of the 2000 Championship at Donington Park. The rest is history with 88 victories to follow that brought the Italian seven World titles and a legendary status. I’m sure it’s no great surprise to learn that Marc Marquez won at Austin in 2013 in just his second premier class race and went on to win the title at the first attempt.
I remember two maiden premier class wins by two riders who went onto win the ultimate prize. Twenty five of us travelled to Assen in 1975 to support Barry Sheene just four months after his horrendous Daytona crash that made him more famous than any World titles back home in Britain. I’m still convinced our vocal beer-fuelled support for Barry as he crossed the line on equal time as legend Giacomo Agostini convinced the timekeepers to award the race to the British rider who went on to win 18 more and two World titles
Seven years later I ran down the track with notebook in hand towards the legendary Eau Rouge corner at Spa in Belgian determined to be the first journalist to speak to Freddie Spencer after his maiden Grand Prix win. As I breathlessly arrived Freddie was trying to turn the three-cylinder Honda with no steering lock round at the bottom of the hill to get back to pit lane and the celebrations. Unfortunately, after averaging 157.873 kph to win the 20 lap race an exhausted Freddie fell off at around 5 kph and the exclusive interview had to wait. Freddie went on to win 19 more premier class Grands Prix, two 500cc titles and is still the only rider to win 500 and 250cc titles in the same season just three years later.
So take heart Fabio, that first win will come. At least you get another chance at Phillip Island on Sunday while the French rugby team will have to wait four long years.