Five riders standing between Fabio Quartararo and a 1st home MotoGP win | MotoGP

The championship leader has started hitting form at the right time following a difficult start to his MotoGP title defence.

A second place at round two in Mandalika (wet race) masked the power deficit issues Quartararo faces with his M1, and although top speed problems remain, the French rider has taken his game to a new level over the last two rounds.

That’s not to say Quartararo didn’t show pace before Portimao, as he did. Impressive pace during free practice in Argentina and America showed potential was beginning to be unlocked, however, it didn’t transition into the results he would have hoped for.

But after dominating the Portuguese Grand Prix, and then pushing Francesco Bagnaia to the limit at Jerez, Quartararo is now showing the same level of performance and consistency as last year’s title winning season.

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So while Quartararo starts this weekend’s Le Mans MotoGP as the favourite, who are the five riders that could spoil the party.

Heading into the Spanish MotoGP, Rins was level on points with Quartararo.

Poor qualifying has played a big role in the Spaniard failing to fight for the podium during the last two races, but with that said, Rins has been in great form throughout 2022.

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Yes Suzuki need to start turning potential into wins, and yes there is a big cloud over the team at the moment following speculation that the Japanese manufacturer will quit the sport at the end of this season, however, Rins has been close to challenging for a win which could again be the case this weekend should he improve his qualifying position.

Next up is Rins’ team-mate Mir. Although the 2020 world champion is without a win since his championship season, there have been very few riders more consistent than the 24 year-old.

What is quickly becoming a race-by-race trend, Mir again made good progress during the Jerez MotoGP as he finished sixth, an important result for the championship given his failure to finish in Portimao.

Based on Suzuki’s overall pace in 2022, ability to make tires last and having riders who are riding at a very high level, Mir can’t be discounted from a potential win this weekend.

Still the only rider to win more than one race so far this season, Bastianini remains a threat for victory despite a couple of up-and-down races.

Bastianini has failed to secure a top five in the races he has not won, but that shouldn’t deter from the fact that the Italian has been very quick during those weekends. Bastianini was making quick progress in Portimao before a mid-race crash. The 2020 Moto2 champion then came from 11th to finish 8th in Jerez.

Like the two Suzuki riders, qualifying has been the biggest issue for Bastianini. Should that get resolved this weekend then he could have a real chance of becoming a three-time MotoGP winner.

It should also be pointed out that Le Mans has been a good track for Ducati of late, although their two wins in 2020 and 21 have come during wet or flag-to-flag races.

The only reason Espargaro is not ranked #1 on this list is because of who won last time out.

The Aprilia rider has been nothing short of sensational in 2022 and is currently the biggest threat to Quartararo in the championship.

Espargaro demonstrated stunning pace during the final few laps in Jerez, and had it not been for Jack Miller and Marc Marquez proving nearly impossible to overtake, then challenging the likes of Quartararo and Bagnaia could have been possible.

A wave of confidence doesn’t justify Espargaro’s early season performance, nor give him the full credit he deserves, instead the former Suzuki rider is riding at a level we’ve never seen from him before, while arguably being the best rider on the grid thus far.

Aprilia and Espargaro appear to be almost no matter the track, grip level or weather conditions, meaning he should be a safe bet to be competitive in Le Mans, a round that usually throws up its fair share of challenges.

1 – Francesco Bagnaia

Following a difficult start to 2022, Bagnaia finally found his groove with the Desmosedici GP22 as he led every lap of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Bagnaia’s win came at a crucial stage in the season as it remains early enough for the Ducati rider to mount a title challenge, despite being 33 points off Quartararo.

Bagnaia was the only rider who could consistently get the better of Quartararo during the latter stages of 2021, which is why many viewed him as the outright title favorite coming into this year.

If Bagnaia can continue the form he showed in Portimao and especially Jerez – there’s no reason to suggest he won’t – then challenging for wins at most circuits should be feasible.