Fabio Quartararo earns first MotoGP championship in third season

0 Comments

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)

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.