Fabio Quartararo and Álex Rins share the lead after five races, in a year without a defined dominator in the premier class
The Motorcycle World Championship faces this weekend the first of the four Spanish events, the Spanish Grand Prix, which takes place at the Jerez circuit, an always special setting that hosts a test for the thirty-sixth consecutive year. Such longevity is surpassed by Assen, with which the nickname ‘Cathedral of motorcycling’ is disputed -71 years in a row on the Dutch track, from 1949 to 2019, a career interrupted by the covid in 2020-.
The World Championship arrives at the Jerez circuit after the grotesque Moto2 in Portugal, with one of the stars of the category, Arón Canet, injured and testing today, pending whether his physique can hold out or not; with the leadership regained by Sergio García in Moto3, after his victory in a beautiful race; and with the blow on the table of the current MotoGP champion, Fabio Quartararo, who arrives at a stage that in recent years has been very favorable both for him and for his Yamaha, a real threat to his rivals even though the Japanese prototype is generating any doubts.
The Frenchman won with great solvency and placed first in the table of the queen class although, yes, tied on points with Álex Rins. And it is that Suzuki is offering a version of himself in which he mixes the regularity that he lacked last year with the explosiveness of his last two comebacks: from ninth to second in Austin and from twenty-third to fourth in Portimao.
“This is a circuit where many riders go fast, so it will be difficult this weekend due to the level that all the riders have and that we have seen in recent years in MotoGP, but we will try to do our best,” Rins explained, faced with the challenge of seeking the first victory for his brand in Jerez, since the last of Suzuki’s two triumphs there dates back to 2000, the work of Kenny Roberts Jr. with the 500cc. The Barcelona rider has been seventh, fifth, third, second and fourth (after recovering an incredible 19 positions), which is in stark contrast to his 2021 performance. Last year, at this point, he already had three zeros thanks to three crashes in the third, fourth (precisely this same track) and fifth races, a streak that lasted two more Sundays.
This greatly improved dynamic is allowing him to stay in the fight for the championship, although it is still far from being defined, in a campaign full of ups and downs, with four different winners in the five Grand Prix races and ten drivers who have already been on the podium. A long list but in which many illustrious names are missing: Joan Mir, Rins’s teammate, who lost that chance in Portugal due to a mistake by Jack Miller that took him to the ground; Pecco Bagnaia, Ducati’s number one theoretician, when four of his brand-mates have already stepped on the box; and above all Marc Márquez, who due to the distance in points from the leader cannot be ruled out from the fight for the championship (he is 38 behind Quartararo and Rins), although like his brand mates, he continues trying to find the line with his motorcycle.
The search for Marquez
«When you are in your sweet moment you can save many things from the bike, but when you come from a difficult situation, like the one I came from, you also need that help from the bike. At the moment I am not finding that confidence”, acknowledged the Repsol Honda rider about his lack of physical confidence and the problems that have been revealed in a motorcycle that promised a lot after winter testing. «The bike does not allow me to try different things because every time I try it there can be a fall or a scare. When you find more confidence and the times start to go, you enter a wheel, that when it picks up good inertia, everything goes smoothly, but now the inertia is costing. It seems that it is caught, but it stops, and that is where we are looking, ”added Márquez.
Complicated situation faced by a rider who experienced his worst moment precisely in Jerez, with the arm injury in 2020, although that day he showed how superior he can (or could) become. That crazy comeback was stopped short with his hard fall. Now in the same place, in another situation, he seeks to rediscover his path in a scenario in which he has been able to win three times in MotoGP, the last one in 2019.
«This Grand Prix is a little more 50%-50% for us, but it is true that both Jerez and Le Mans are very important and we cannot afford to fail. If we want to fight for the championship, mistakes are not allowed. We have to be on the podium, otherwise it will be very difficult to reach the end of the season in good condition.” This reflection was made by Fabio Quartararo, the defending champion, on Thursday at the Portuguese Grand Prix. That assessment with doubts about his chances in Portimao were solved with solvency in his favor: resounding victory and leadership of the general, a very good balance for the Frenchman, who these days is defoliating the daisy of his future given the shortcomings of his Yamaha. Quartararo won, but with the same bike, Andrea Dovizioso was eleventh, more than 29 seconds behind, and Franco Morbidelli thirteenth, more than 33 seconds behind. After Portugal, now comes the second stage of this three-race sprint in which he seeks to consolidate his position for the title fight.
And Jerez is more than favorable ground for his aspirations. Since his debut in MotoGP, Quartararo has done all the pole positions on the Andalusian track, a position on the grid that he has not yet reached in 2022. In 2019 he registered his name as the youngest rider in the history of the queen class to achieve a pole, unseating Marc Márquez, but in the race, when he was marching steadily towards the podium behind the Spaniard, his bike stopped. In 2020 he made up for it, and swept the two races held on the Andalusian track (he crossed the finish line with more than four seconds ahead of his closest rival).
In the first of them, Márquez suffered the terrible injury that kept him out of the circuits until 2021. Precisely last year, the current MotoGP leader experienced the frustration of losing another victory in Jerez due to a problem in his right arm. When his advantage after thirteen laps over the second (Jack Miller) was close to second and a half, he began to lose strength and drop positions, having to resign himself to finishing thirteenth. An incident that prevented what could have been his third consecutive victory on the track where this weekend he will seek to take advantage as a cushion against what the passage of the World Championship may bring him, especially in view of the problems with his motorcycle .
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.