Milan, Italy: Fabio Quartararo is looking to for a strong response from a disappointing showing last week as the MotoGP championship leader gears up for the San Marino GP with Francesco Bagnaia eyeing a second straight win.
Frenchman Quartararo saw his healthy overall lead cut to 53 points last weekend after he finished eighth in the Aragon GP, on what he admitted pre-race was his least favourite track.
Now the 22-year-old is keen to bounce back as the paddock rolls round to Misano, home turf for Italian Bagnaia who is now Quartararo’s closest challenger after earning his first ever MotoGP win in Spain last time out.
Ducati rider Bagnaia, a former protege of motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi, has reason to be confident of further chipping at Quartararo’s lead as he came second at Misano last season and won there in the Moto2 class three years ago.
“What’s done is done. It’s only natural that sometimes the lead decreases, and then it can increase again. I‘m not worried by it,” said Quartararo.
“I just want to focus on doing a good race here this weekend. I really like Misano, and we will be racing here twice, so that‘s something I‘m quite excited about.”
Quartararo will be boosted by the return to his side of Franco Morbidelli, his former Yamaha-SRT teammate who was promoted to the factory team on Thursday following the stormy departure of Maverick Vinales, now at Aprilia.
Morbidelli will make his debut on Sunday after agreeing a deal that will keep him with Yamaha until the end of the 2023 campaign.
The 26-year-old has been out of action since having surgery on his left knee in late June, meaning he has missed the last five races.
And the Italian is desperate to get back on the track where he claimed the first of his three GP victories on course to last season’s second-placed finish.
“I really want to start working with the team and start making laps with the bike because it’s been a long time that I haven’t been riding, and I’m starting to feel a bit uncomfortable,” said Morbidelli.
“My comeback is going to be in such a great environment — Misano is a circuit I know well and like a lot — and on a great bike.”
It will also be an emotional day at Misano for the home fans as Rossi makes his penultimate appearance at the track before hanging up his leathers at the end of the season.
The 42-year-old Yamaha-SRT rider has five more races left in his long career, which has brought him seven MotoGP championships and made him an icon in Italy, and his final home race will come in next month’s ‘Made in Italy’ GP also at Misano.
Rossi will be joined by countryman Andrea Dovizioso until the end of his final campaign, with the 35-year-old being brought back into MotoGP following Morbidelli’s move up to the Yamaha’s factory outfit.