Race suit, helmet and … foot on the accelerator. For a day Fabio Quartararo abandoned bikes to discover the world of rallying, on the roads of Il Ciocco in Tuscany. An appointment organized by WithU Motorsport which also involved Franco Morbidelli and the riders of the SKY VR46 team.
At their disposal was a Hyundai i20 WRC and Dani Sordo as teacher and also driver to experience the thrill of darting between trees and walls at full speed alongside a rally champion.
The Frenchman of the Petronas team liked the experience, but his head is already focused on the start of the World Championship and a few days ago he started to do some laps between the curbs with an R1 at the Paul Ricard circuit.
“I lapped at a good pace and with a practically standard bike, but at the beginning it was difficult – he said – It was a new circuit for me, there is a chicane on the straight, there are at least 50 different ways to do it, so in the end I decided to go straight – he laughs – I did almost 180 laps in two days and physically I was in perfect shape”.
Everyone was waiting to see you at work after your excellent MotoGP debut and you’ve already been nicknamed the anti-Marquez. What do you think about that?
“I like it, because in Qatar I did a race simulation with a very good pace and that’s what has remained in my mind. Also I had used the new engine but with a lot of kilometers on it, so the power will be even greater and this gives me even more confidence. Being called the anti-Marquez is not a motivation, but I like it. “
Last year you challenged him several times, can you see what you are missing to beat him?
“I think Marc had an incredible season and I don’t think he will repeat it, otherwise we will really have to invent something. Last year he only came first or second; if he were to do that again … there would really be something wrong (laughs). With more experience it will be easier to beat him. Last year I had a good season but I also made a lot of mistakes, at the Sachsenring and at Silverstone I crashed on the first lap, now it shouldn’t happen to me anymore. It’s normal, you have to accumulate all this experience to make progress.”
“I signed with Yamaha because I wanted to have a factory bike already this year”
You are in a private team albeit with a factory bike, is it possible to aim for the title in MotoGP without a factory team behind you?
“For me, yes, although it depends a lot on the support that the manufacturer gives you. I think if I am fighting against Marquez in the last two races, Yamaha will give me the best. “
You signed your renewal early with Yamaha. Did you ever think about leaving them?
“Sure, but what made me decide to stay was having the factory bike this year. This was the most important thing and it was part of the agreement. I had 20 races to do and I wanted to do them with that bike. “
You want to stay with the same brand but also with the same team of technicians?
“I would really like to have them, I know that Diego (Gubellini, his crew chief) is talking to Yamaha but it is still early to decide, we have not yet done a single race yet. I’d like to bring my mechanics with me. “
“Rossi is the king, I get nervous when I talk to him”
Rossi will probably take your place in Petronas; how important will it be that he stays in Yamaha orbit?
“As I have always said, Valentino is a legend and my idol, it is a pleasure to be with him on the track. I still get nervous when I talk to him because I have the king before me. If he were to continue until 50 years of age it would be perfect for me”.
“Team up with Marquez? In my situation I would have said no”
Would you have agreed to go to Honda alongside Marquez, as Pol Espargarò did?
“It all depends on your situation, in my opinion I would say no, because I feel good in Yamaha and I know I have a great bike. Pol has an aggressive style, which is well suited to the Honda, and if Marc has won the title for 6 out of 7 years it means that that bike goes well. In his situation I would have done it too. “
Is it easier to beat Marquez with the same bike or with a different one?
“Certainly with a different bike.”
Months have passed since the last time you were on the Yamaha MotoGP bike, are you worried that it may be difficult to regain rhythm after so long?
“I was after the winter break, but then I realized that in Malaysia, after 5 laps, I was already lapping at the same times. Maybe it will be difficult physically, because as much as you can train at home you cannot simulate the effort on a MotoGP “.
“Tires and risks will be two important things to manage”
Less than a month to go before the start of the season, what do you think of the new calendar?
“I never imagined we would have to do 13 races in these situations, if we manage it will be perfect for everyone. The circuits on the calendar are good for me, perhaps Aragon and Spielberg are the most difficult”.
Will you have to be more cautious with so many GPs close together?
“The first race will be tough for everyone, even physically, from the second onwards the situation will normalize.”
Do you like the idea of a second race on the same circuit?
“Yes, when we test on the Monday after the race there is always an incredible grip. We know that at Jerez the grip will be low due to the heat, we will have to be good at managing the tires because the Michelins will adapt to those conditions”.
Could there be any surprises in such an unusual championship like this one?
“Maybe some. You will have to be especially careful not to crash, an injury could cost several races. We will have to manage the situation in the best possible way, but for me we will have to tackle the races as if everything were completely normal”.