MotoGP: Zeelenberg proud of protégé Quartararo

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In only his fourth race in the premier class, French MotoGP newboy Fabio Quartararo had a rollercoaster weekend at Jerez last weekend. Showing off his talent to take pole he spent 13 laps battling with Marquez until a mechanical problem with the Petronas Yamaha left him watching from the side lines.

Forced out of second place when a gear broke on his satellite M1, the 20-year-old was left devastated in the garage afterwards. But after holding back the tears and re-grouping, Quartararo said that while he might have been left disappointed by the result, he’s delighted with what he learned racing with Marquez.

“The pace was fast, but when you’re riding with these guys you end up riding like it’s not just your fourth race! I was changing the mapping, managing the temperature of the tyres, and I took a lot of experience from it even if I couldn’t finish the race.

“I don’t want to say that I could have been on the podium when I wasn’t, but I think I could have managed it. I was disappointed because we could have challenged for a good position, but when you look at the weekend I had I can only be happy. No podium, no points, no finish, but I can take an awful lot of experience from it.”

And while he might not have come home with the podium result he craves, Quartararo has silenced his critics who said that Zeelenberg is proud of his protégé the Frenchman never deserved the MotoGP seat in the first place. Coming 12 months after he left Jerez with only seven points in the Moto2 championship, he’s repaid the faith shown in him by his Malaysian team.

But that faith was never in doubt from the squad themselves, with experienced team boss Wilco Zeelenberg telling MCN after the race that there was never really anyone else they considered for the seat.

“As soon as Pedrosa said he was going to retire, Fabio was top of our list. Don’t ask me why, but we saw the potential in him. We spoke within the team to ask ourselves why, but sometimes you know what you want and can’t really explain why and we’re very proud now that we made that decision.

“He’s a young kid and he likes to have fun, and he doesn’t have much experience. He’s doing everything on feeling and he doesn’t really know yet how good or how bad a bike can be.”

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer