Rookie fought the seven-time Champion all the way at Misano. He may have fallen just short, but that illustrious win isn’t far away

A titanic performance, but it wasn’t quite enough on Sunday at the GP Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Holding off seven-time Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) until the final lap, the rookie sensation showed it’s only a matter of time before it’s him standing on the top step of a MotoGP™ rostrum.

Along with the other three Yamahas, Quartararo had been strong all weekend. As was widely predicted, himself, Marquez and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) were at the forefront but it soon became a two-horse race for victory between Quartararo and Marquez.

Quartararo: “It was the best moment of my life” 15/09/2019

What goes through the mind of a rookie when leading a seven-time World Champion for 20 laps? The French sensation opens up after the race…

What panned out next was nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it may not have been constant overtaking and a full-on dog fight for the win. But the sheer consistency and speed from Quartararo to keep a hounding multiple World Champion at bay, without making a single error, shows what a talent the Petronas Yamaha SRT rider is.

“It’s not only the best moment of my career, but of my life,” explained Quartararo after the race. It may not have fallen the Frenchman’s way on the last lap, but now knowing he can fight and overtake Marquez is only going to make him an even stronger threat for the rest of the season.

“When you have a seven-time World Champion behind you every lap and he overtakes you on the first corner, you overtake him back at corner four… I was so happy to have a fight with him,” Quartararo continued. “And yeah last time we make second we finished three second behind. So, this time we were really close to him. I think we managed the tyre in a really good way, the left side of the tyre was a lot more critical than him, but on the right side we did quite well so step by step we are learning and this is really good for us.

In 10 mins: San Marino Grand Prix MotoGP™ highlights 15/09/2019

Watch all of the best bits of the premier class race at the Misano World Circuit with Matt Birt, Steve Day and Simon Crafar

“I think one of my mechanics was always putting me ‘0.2 Marquez, 0.2 Marquez’ but I think my crew chief said ‘stop putting Marquez, he knows he’s behind’ and he stopped and I was always looking at my pit board – 0.2, 0.2, 0.2 – so at one moment I stopped looking and I was just checking the one down, which was Maverick, and he was 1.5, 2 seconds so at the end we manage well and we finished second.”

‘El Diablo’ lost the lead at Turn 1 on the last lap, but, knowing Marquez’ power, he had to bite straight back – and that’s exactly what happened. “I knew that he would try something. But we never know with Marc, he can overtake and pull away because I really don’t know if he saved his tyre. The good thing is that I overtook him back, and this gives me a lot of confidence going home to say ‘he’s a seven-time World Champion, but we can overtake him’.

“He’s a human like us and yes at corner three I was on the curb and during the whole weekend, I didn’t go on this curb. It was only for this overtake because I knew if I didn’t overtake him back here, then it was impossible to overtake him again so, I’m really happy about what we did today.

“Corner 11, I knew that I was really fast. I caught him a lot, I tried my best at corner 14,” continued the Misano runner-up, describing the last sector of the race. “I thought that he was going wide and I tried to get to the inside, but I lose the front a little bit and my foot goes off and yes, we finished second but we’re happy because we had a fight with a seven-time Champion.”

Marquez: “The real winner today was Fabio” 15/09/2019

High praise for the valiant rookie from the reigning champion, who moves to a 93-point lead in the standings after his last lap triumph

We haven’t seen a rookie like Quartararo since Marquez entered the premier class scene in 2013. No one, not even himself, would have thought he would have been challenging Marquez down to the wire at any race this season. And it’s a feeling Quartararo describes like so:

“First of all, it’s a dream come true. When, Marc not so much because he is really young, but when you know he has seven titles and you are fighting with him, as a rookie, he has much more experience than us, but we still reach and overtake him during all of the race. He was behind and we had a good fight so today is the best day of my life and I only can be happy. I go home with a lot of confidence and (I’m) ready to fight for Aragon.”

A high-flying Quartararo now heads to Marquez’ backyard. Unlike Misano, Marquez has won at MotorLand Aragon for the past three seasons, so if Quartararo can do the same – and maybe go one better – in northern Spain, it’ll be an even bigger coup that what today may have been.

“It’s a track I go quite fast at, but this time with a MotoGP bike, I think I go fast almost everywhere. So I need to work a lot on this track, it’s not one of my favourites but I think with the Yamaha we can be really fast there.”

We only have to wait five days to see how Quartararo will tackle Aragon. A win for the soon-to-be rookie of the year – a title he can clinch at Round 14 – surely isn’t far away.

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