Fabio Quartararo happy despite MotoGP crash in Le Mans: Finally fast!

The really big ‘happy ending’ didn’t happen in the end, but Fabio Quartararo gave his MotoGP fans a lot of joy at the home race in Le Mans for a long time. Equipped with a special paint job by Yamaha, the Frenchman stayed in eighth place after the hectic start phase and within sight of the leading group. Thanks to the duel between Aleix Espargaro and Enea Bastianini, they even moved up to sixth place – until the fateful lap 17: Then Quartararo crashed in turn nine and ended the Grand Prix in the gravel trap, to the disappointment of the almost 120,000 fans.

However, the Frenchman himself showed no sign of frustration or disappointment after the end of the race, on the contrary. In an interview with ‘TNT Sports’ he was happy: “Yes, I was at the limit. But I feel much better when I’m in sixth place and crash than when it happens to me in twelfth place. So today was a good one “We were pretty fast on the day and I hope we can carry this speed into the next race weekends.”

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Fabio Quartararo happy: leadership group still in sight!

In fact, Quartararo delivered by far his strongest performance of 2024 in the French Grand Prix – and not just because he was temporarily in sixth place, nine positions ahead of the next pilot on a Japanese bike: Johann Zarco (P15). In fact, at the time of his crash in the 17th of 27 laps, he was only five seconds behind the leading duo of Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin, an average of just under three tenths per lap. A difference between Ducati and Yamaha that was probably last seen in the summer of 2022. “I’m really happy because for the first time this year I felt competitive and fought with riders with whom I have done so regularly in the past,” said the 2021 MotoGP World Champion happily.

But how did this sudden jump in performance of the Yamaha YZR-M1 come about? “We have this morning [im Warm Up, Anm.] made a massive change to the bike,” reveals Quartararo, who finished the ten-minute warm-up session on Sunday morning in third place. “It felt positive, which is why I decided to use the new setup in the race. That was a good decision, I think.”

He did not want to publicly announce on Sunday evening what exactly the Yamaha team had adapted to Quartararo’s machine. However, it was obvious that at least the new aero package from the Jerez test was not responsible for the jump in performance. This was not used in the French Grand Prix; instead, the Frenchman used the previous 2024 concept. Teammate Alex Rins also did not use the new aero package, although both drivers had flirted with further experiments at Le Mans after the Jerez test two weeks ago.

Fabio Quartararo used Yamaha's old aero package at Le Mans, photo: LAT Images
Fabio Quartararo used Yamaha’s old aero package at Le Mans, photo: LAT Images

Yamaha finally on the right MotoGP path: still potential for improvement!

However, that didn’t happen and the image of the Blues on the track initially changed little. Quartararo surprisingly managed to qualify directly for Q2 in the afternoon training session on Friday, but he didn’t really feel comfortable on his motorcycle at the time. ‘El Diablo’ showed again in qualifying on Saturday morning that certain problems can be avoided in one lap when he positioned his Yamaha in eighth place on the grid. But over a longer distance in the sprint, he fell back again: only tenth and 12.699 seconds behind the winner Martin.

This also makes it clear how big Quatararo’s leap in Le Mans from Saturday to Sunday actually was. At the time of his crash in the main race, he had lost more than seven seconds less to the leader than the day before, and that with three and a half more laps completed. “The grip at the corner entrance was much better,” he describes and reveals further potential for optimization: “We have to take another look at the electronics, they are not yet perfectly adjusted. You just have to look at how much more restless my M1 is in turns 5 and 6 Compared to the other riders’ bikes, it’s still quite heavy and doesn’t steer well. But we’re improving step by step and heading in the right direction.”

At Le Mans, Fabio Quartararo fought again with Aleix Espargaro and Co., Photo: LAT Images
At Le Mans, Fabio Quartararo fought again with Aleix Espargaro and Co., Photo: LAT Images

Yamaha: Further progress in private testing in Mugello?

It is certainly not inconvenient for Quartararo that MotoGP will next stop in Barcelona from May 24th to 26th. The Circuit de Catalunya is one of his favorite tracks, where he has already won twice in 2020 and 2022. There the progress from Le Mans can be confirmed or perhaps even improved. Before that, Yamaha will be testing for two more days in Mugello, where further fine-tuning will be done: “We have the opportunity to test and confirm the new setup on a completely different track. But I’m confident because I rode very well today and hope that we can continue like this.”

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