Fabio Quartararo earns first MotoGP championship in third season

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Fabio Quartararo clinched his first MotoGP championship in his third season when his closest competitor for the title, Francesco Bagnaia, crashed out of the lead with five laps remaining in the Emilia-Romagna GP. With two rounds remaining and 25 points awarded to winning riders, Quartararo holds a 65-point lead.

Marc Marquez won the race in Misano over Pol Espargaro and Enea Bastianini. Quartararo finished fourth and missed the podium by less than a second.

While Quartararo would have liked to clinch with better finish, he was pleased to have made his way to the front of the pack from his 15th starting position – especially after seeing Bagnaia start from the pole.

And frankly, grinding out a solid top-five under challenging conditions made this race a fitting end to the yeoman’s season.

“I never start (further back than) P11 in Moto GP, and I’m starting from P15 on the one of the most important race of my career,” Quartararo said during the post-race press conference. “We chose the safe tires. For us the hard would have been much better, and I think that the podium was there with the hard, but I had no more stability when I was behind all the group. I couldn’t overtake.

“I’m really happy about my race, even if I would not have won the championship, because it’s something really great and (a great) experience that I had that we finished P4.

“Super happy about my race and of course, with the championship it is something extra.”

After starting the season with a fifth-place result in the GP of Qatar, Quartararo won the next two races and then suffered his worst finish of the season in Spain. He crossed under the checkered flag 13th. That race shook his confidence after ending the 2020 season with a series of hardships and an eight-place position in the points standings.

Quartararo won three races last year, but those were his only podiums for the season.

Even with his disappointing finish in Spain he earned a few points, and in hindsight, it was that consistency for which he credits his championship. Quartararo was back on the podium in his next outing at France and won the Italian GP, which is the race he says turned his season around.

“I think the consistency we had this year (was critical). I’m touching wood,” Quartararo said as he playfully tapped his skull. “But we finished all the races and were scoring every time points, points, points. I think even in Jerez (Spain) I scored three points with the arm pump problem. So I think the consistency of 2021 is same as in 2019, but we are faster so that was the key to winning the championship this year.”

Quartararo finished fifth in the standings in his maiden season of 2019.

Through 16 rounds of 2021, Quartararo has ground out the finishes.

In a highly competitive field, he has scored three consecutive podiums only once. Back-to-back second-place finishes at San Marino and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas put him in the position to clinch in Misano, but the turning point came in Round 6. His Mugello victory, coupled with problems for a lightning fast Bagnaia, convinced him that the title was in reach.

“For me the key point was Mugello when we won because Bagnaia was super strong and he made a mistake on the first second lap … that was where I took a lot of confidence back.”

Clinching the Moto GP title with two races remaining gives Quartararo an opportunity to bask in the glory.

It will also give him a chance to regain his voice before the championship banquet.

“To be honest I have already not my original voice.” Quartararo said “So I cry a lot. I scream a lot. But it feels amazing, because when I cross the finish line, I think of all the tough moments I had and to be world champion in MotoGP is something that I never expected when I was in a bad situation a few years ago. So right now, I’m feeling the dream.”

Fabio Quartararo MotoGP championship
Fabio Quartararo of France celebrates his title after finishing fourth in the Emilia-Romagna GP in Misano Adriatico, Italy. (Photo by Steve Wobser/Getty Images)

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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