All eyes French rising star as MotoGP heads to Le Mans
Le Mans, France - In only his fifth MotoGP, 20-year-old Fabio Quartararo will be the centre of attention this weekend for the race at Le Mans in his native France.
Two weeks ago in Jerez, the rookie from Nice became the youngest man to take pole position in a Grand Prix, breaking the record set in 2013 by the sport's dominant rider, Marc Marquez.
Marquez still won the race, while Quartararo was forced out by mechanical problems with his Yamaha, but he has taken encouragement from his form in qualifying and post-race testing.
"We can only draw positive conclusions from the Spanish GP. We took pole position," he told the Yamaha SRT website.
"We were fighting for the podium and on Monday we were the fastest at the test whilst we were trying out many things for the coming races."
He is looking forward to racing in ront of French fans for the first time since stepping up to MotoGP this season.
"It's good to go to Le Mans after a great weekend like we had at Jerez. There will be a lot of fans at the French GP and that will give me extra motivation," he said.
"It also generates more stress and pressure as it's my home Grand Prix, but in the end it's good to have a race where the fans are all behind me."
The other French rider in the race, Johann Zarco, took his only pole position on a Yamaha last year.
The memory might lift Zarco's mood, which has been glum as he has struggled at his new team KTM to set up his bike in a way he likes.
Meanwhile, the five-time world champion, title-holder and winner last year, Marc Marquez is again leading the standings after two wins and a second in the first three races. But he is only one point ahead of fellow Spaniard Alex Rins.
The gap is so small because Marquez crashed while leading the Grand Prix of the Americas. His Honda can be lively.
Rain is forecast for Saturday and Sunday and the Le Mans track demands a lot of braking and acceleration.
"Le Mans can be a tricky GP, especially with the weather so we must be prepared for any conditions," Marquez said.
Rins is in impressive form on his Suzuki. The young Spaniard won in Texas after Marquez fell and was second in Jerez.
"The latest results have been very positive, but we'll stay grounded and not get carried away," he said.
"We know that Le Mans can be a tricky circuit for us as it is mainly 'stop and go', but, at the same time, the growth we've done with the bike compared to last year, and my increased experience could be two important factors for a good race in France."
Suzuki's last title was won by Kenny Roberts in 500cc in 2000, two years before the launch of the MotoGP format.
Two Italians, Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso and veteran Valentino Rossi, are third and fourth in the standings.
Rossi has two second places but no victories this season and has not won at Le Mans since 2008. He was a distant sixth in Jerez.
"I like the track at Le Mans and our Yamaha is usually competitive here," he said. "I want to get back on the podium."