Never have two French riders been fighting for the title in the top class. Having produced some good riders in recent years, the French school has finally found two stars in Quartararo and Zarco, both of whom have been centre stage during this first half of the championship.
The Yamaha rider is currently favourite, with four race wins to date, as well as the category’s point of reference considering Marquez is not yet 100%. Behind him, Johann Zarco is surprising many, leading the way for Ducati and competitive at every track. As he chases his fellow countryman, he is now looking for his first race win.
The history of French riders in the world championship
The French motorcycling movement has produced many strong riders over the years and yet they have scored just seven world championship from 1949 until now, specifically two 125 titles, three 250 victories and two Moto2 trophies. So no wins in the reigning class. A trend that could well be reversed this year.
The most successful French rider is in fact Johann Zarco, who holds two Moto2 titles, while we have to go back to 2008 to find other championship winners, when Mike Di Meglio beat Simone Corsi in 125. In 2000, Olivier Jacque won in 250 ahead of Nakano. The most representative French rider in the reigning class is probably Christian Sarron, the winner of a 250 title in 1984 and long-time protagonist in the 500 class. In 1989 he finished third behind Lawson and Rainey.
The turning point with Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco
The arrival of Johann Zarco and then Fabio Quartararo has come as a breath of fresh air for French motorcycling. The first has shown true talent, which exploded in 2015 when he won his first world title, which he immediately followed up with another the very next year. Zarco’s partnership with Ducati has heightened his competitiveness in MotoGP, as proved by the four podiums that see him place second in the general standings behind Quartararo.
The “Diablo”'s story is different. Having landed in Moto3 after two wins in the Spanish CEV, he was immediately pegged as the next big thing. But then negative results in the minor classes kept Fabio out of the spotlight. It was only once he moved up to MotoGP that he really found his way, becoming, already now, the most successful Frenchman of all time in the reigning class.
And so it is that, mid-championship, France is counting on this strong pair who currently lead the way in the standings. Quartararo and Zarco have been the quickest and most consistent in these first races, but it remains to be seen whether a Frenchman will finally be lifting the championship trophy come the end of the 2021 season.
Translated by Heather Watson