Frenchman Fabio Quartararo is MotoGP world champion after his title rival crashed out of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix while leading.
- Frabio Quartararo is the first French rider to win the MotoGP championship
- Quartararo was crowned champion when Francesco Bagnaia crashed out in Imola
- Bagnaia’s teammate Jack Miller crashed out of the race on lap four
The Yamaha rider entered Sunday’s race with a 52-point lead over Italian Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia, with an outside chance of wrapping up his maiden title.
Bagnaia looked certain to cut into Quartararo’s lead when he led Sunday’s race from pole and was pulling away from Marc Márquez with five laps to go.
But the Ducati rider lost control of his bike while heading into turn 15 at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy.
Bagnaia’s crash was almost identical to his teammate, Australian Jack Miller, who crashed at turn 15 on lap four while in second.
Márquez went on to win the race, his second in a row, while Quartararo produced a brilliant ride from 15th on the grid to finish fourth.
An emotional Quartararo said after the race he was struggling to comprehend he had become champion.
“I still can’t believe it. I can’t even talk, it feels amazing,” he said.
“Right now, I am living the dream and it feels good.”
Quartararo’s chances to secure the title at Imola were slim, with Bagnaia starting on pole and he starting 15th, his worst qualifying in the premier class.
Ducati made a late decision before the race to put hard front tyres on Bagnaia and Miller’s bikes.
It is a decision that will be questioned after both riders lost their bikes in the same fashion.
Quartararo was trying to limit the damage his Italian rival looked set to inflict on his championship lead.
But he could enjoy the final three laps of the race once he learned Bagnaia had thrown away the race win.
The Frenchman won six junior road racing titles in Spain, beginning with the 50cc class in 2008 at the age of nine before taking his first of two FIM CEV Moto3 championships as the series’ youngest ever champion.
He stayed in the prestigious CEV championship for a second season because he was too young for the Moto3 world championship, winning nine of the season’s 11 races and finishing second in the other two.
He entered Moto3 in 2015 at the age of 15 after an exemption to the minimum age requirement of 16 was written for him, allowing the winner of the Spanish FIM CEV Moto3 championship to compete in the world series at any age.
He struggled in the Moto3 and then Moto2 series, winning only one Moto2 race, before his surprise signing to Yamaha’s satellite MotoGP team, Petronas SRT, for 2019.
He was the standout rookie with five second places and two thirds, before winning the opening two rounds of 2020.
His 2020 championship challenge fell away as he struggled for consistency, eventually finishing eighth overall with only one extra win in the COVID-shortened season, but was signed to the Yamaha factory team for 2021.
So far in 2021, with two races remaining, he was won five races and has a worst finish of 13 after suffering arm pump during the Spanish MotoGP, which was subsequently won by Miller.
It is Yamaha’s first rider’s title since 2015, when Jorge Lorenzo took his third MotoGP title.
Quartararo and his teammate Franco Morbidelli are two points behind Miller and Bagnaia’s Ducati Team in the teams championship, and Yamaha is 12 points behind Ducati in the manufacturer’s standings.
Sunday was 10 years and one day after the death on track in Malaysia of MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, after whom the Misano circuit was renamed in 2012.