The second-ever PTT Thailand Grand Prix was another epic. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) captured his eighth Grand Prix World Championship with a sensational ninth victory of 2019, but there was another story: Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) once again went toe-to-toe with Marquez as a new riveting rivalry grew a little more.
In terms of the Championship, 2019 has been all about Marquez. The stats don’t lie. However, the new Yamaha kid on the block has taken the premier class by storm in his rookie season and Marquez knows that Quartararo is going to be a title contender next season. Of that there is no doubt. A longshot coming into this season, no one really expected the Frenchman to be pulling up trees. Quartararo has surprised everyone this year and after pushing Marquez all the way at Misano and now in Thailand, as well as other stunning performances, 2020 has the makings of a scintillating title fight.
“Fabio is one of the main contenders for next year,” commented Marquez, after he’d just been crowned an eight-time World Champion. “He is riding the Yamaha in a very good way. He is using all the track all the time. He finds the way to keep the corner speed very, very high. He makes the difference.
“But today we take profit of our engine in the two main straights. But then in T3 and T4 he was much faster. You know when you have torque, you lose grip. When you have grip you lose torque. This is a compromise and we managed in a best way because we were the most consistent rider of the year.”
But does Quartararo feel ready? Yamaha gave the 20-year-old 500 more RPMs at the Chang International Circuit and with what is hoped to be an improved YZR-M1 coming along for 2020, ‘El Diablo’ looks set to challenge for wins from the off.
“We will feel more ready; this year is our rookie year. We know already most of the tracks. When we arrive in Valencia, we will still have the test and of course, we will arrive in Qatar. This Year, I’ve already made P5 and qualifying and I was not ready. So, for sure next year I will feel ready,” said Quartararo after the Thai GP. “For sure I will try to challenge him but it’s still not our main goal to fight for the championship.”
Thanks to a fifth rostrum of the year, Quartararo now sits just two points adrift of fellow Yamaha rider and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in the Championship. Who would have thought that would have been the case after Round 15 at the start of the season? Barely anyone.
With four races remaining in 2019, a maiden MotoGP™ win will give the already full of confidence Frenchman that little added extra injection of belief heading into the winter break and 2020. Marquez should have a number of competitors for the title next season: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) just to name a few, but Quartararo is set to be one of, if not the main one.
Is Marquez vs Quartararo Round 3 on the cards in Japan, Australia, Malaysia or Valencia? Let’s hope so.