Motorcycling: Quartararo is first French MotoGP title winner as Bagnaia crashes

Fabio Quartararo sits in the pits oat the Misano World Circuit Marco-Simoncelli, in Adriatico, Italy, on Oct 23, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS, AFP) - Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo became the first Frenchman to win the MotoGP world championship following a fourth-place finish in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday (Oct 24) as his closest title contender Francesco Bagnaia of Ducati crashed.

Italian pole sitter Bagnaia was leading Ducati's home race when he crashed with five laps to go, handing Honda's Marc Marquez the race victory and the world title to Quartararo, who has an unassailable lead in the standings with two races left.

The 22-year-old surged from 15th on the starting grid to finish fourth.

"I still can't believe it," Quartararo said as he broke down in tears in the pit lane.

"It's amazing, right now I'm living the dream. It feels good to have my family with me and we will enjoy tonight and until the end of the season."

He now leads Bagnaia by 65 points, meaning the Frenchman can no longer be caught by his Ducati rival and guarantees a first riders' title for his team since 2015 and a first ever for his nation.

"It's not the way I would have liked to win this championship but it's not the only race we've won," he said to Sky Sport Italia.

"It's been incredible and I think I performed so well this year thanks to Pecco (Bagnaia) who has really pushed me hard... I'm really happy."

Quartararo broke down in tears as his family sung his praises during the interview, carried out in Italian, covering his face to stop himself crying too hard on national television.

His win comes in his third season in MotoGP, the first with Yamaha's factory team after two years with the SRT satellite outfit.

In the 16 races he has contested this season, he has claimed 10 podiums, including five victories.

His victory ended nearly a decade of Spanish dominance after Marquez (six championships), Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo (2012 and 2015) and Suzuki's Joan Mir (2020) won the last nine titles.

Australia's Casey Stoner was the last non-Spanish rider to win a title when he dominated the 2011 season with Honda. Lorenzo, the last Yamaha rider to take the title, was also at Misano to congratulate Quartararo.

Six-time MotoGP champion Marquez had been pursuing Bagnaia for almost the entire race. His Honda teammate Pol Espargaro was second and Italian rider Enea Bastianini of Ducati came third.

Italian rider Bagnaia's job was made harder just three laps into the race when his teammate Jack Miller, who started from second on the grid, skidded off the track. The Australian was protecting Bagnaia from attacks from Marquez, who also won the Grand Prix of the Americas in the last round.

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