French GP Preview: Quartararo arrives home as leader 

The MotoGP World Championship is gearing up for its tenth appointment this weekend (October 9-11) as part of this atypical pandemic-disturbed season calendar. The MotoGP French GP will be battled out at the legendary circuit of Le Mans. 

At this point in time, it is hard to imagine a more even and exciting championship. Fabio Quartararo heads home as leader of the standings after his third victory (Spain & Andalucia) of the season in Catalonia. The French pilot leads this season’s revelation, Joan Mir, by eight points. The Suzuki racer also delighted fans with a great performance in Barcelona, joining his rival for the title on the podium. 

These two young drivers are emerging as the strongest contestants for the crown at a season marked by the lack of a clear leader. The absence of Marc Márquez has allowed for non-less than seven different pilots to claim a win. The French and the Spaniard contestants have displayed great consistency throughout the championship, a virtue that the other illustrious names on the grid seem to be lacking. 

Quartararo will be the centre of attention this Sunday. Last year he failed to shine in front of his fans, only managing the eighth position, so he is more determined than ever to make a show of his authority at his home round this weekend. A strong result by the French is essential if he wants to consolidate his leadership and distance himself from his pursuers. 

Mir will obviously do everything he can to get in his way. Although still winless this year, he is a regular of the podium, a feat that has earned him a place in the group of favourites. The Spaniard has come this far at what is only his second season in the top category, just like Quartararo. 

His success has been so, that Mir himself is not shy about voicing his ambitions anymore. Supported by the great performance of his Suzuki, which has proved to be brilliant on the final sprints, he is openly going for the World Championship Title. 

His four podiums over the last five appointments are testimony of his fitness. He has now taken over from teammate Alex Rins as the best asset of the team from Hamamatsu. Rins has not been able to perform at his usual level following the fall he suffered at the beginning of the season. 

As far as the rest of the grid goes, they seem to be fallen victims of their own inconsistency. Third on the grid is a discordant Maverick Viñales, unable to find the rhythm with his Yamaha. He is 18 points behind Quartararo and if he doesn’t want to bid farewell to the title, he has to turn things around this Sunday. He was down to a ninth position in Catalonia just a week after commanding the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with great authority.  

Andrea Dovizioso is suffering from a similar ailment and his energy has deflated with the passing of races. The Italian, who tends to feel quite comfortable at Le Mans, will be trying to make up for his ‘0 points’ in Catalonia. Last year he managed a second position at the MotoGP French GP. In any case, it remains to be seen what he can do with this year’s compounds which are giving him a lot of misery so far.  

Dovizioso is just four points below Viñales but after being on the verge of losing his seat for 2021, he doesn’t seem to be in a position to perform a great comeback and enter the bid for the title.  

Valentino Rossi, for his part, is mimicking his compatriot. The legendary Italian driver crashed out in Barcelona as he was pursuing both Quartararo and as his elusive 200th podium. Perhaps it is his future teammate at Petronas SRT for 2021, Franco Morbidelli, who could put up the fiercest fight, or maybe the Pramac Racing duo, Pecco Bagnaia & Jack Miller. 

Images of MotoGP French GP: Petronas SRT.

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