Finally synchronized on Sunday at the top of MotoGP, taking the first two places in the Doha Grand Prix, Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco have experienced often crossed paths and taken different paths in their quest, however shared, for a world title.
The foal and the expat
The oldest rider of the duo, Zarco (30), who races for Ducati-Pramac, has long been the protégé of the former rider, motorcycle trainer and trainer Laurent Fellon.
The latter takes him under his wing from his adolescence, welcomes him to the family home in Avignon and will become his manager.
"I saw him arrive at my house when he was 13 years old, I taught him to drive, I saw him grow up", Fellon recounted in November 2017. The two men will end up falling out during Zarco's passage at KTM in 2019.
Quartararo, 21, successor of Italian legend Valentino Rossi at Yamaha, perfected his skills on the other side of the Pyrenees: at the age of 13, he moved to Spain.
"Fabio is a gifted person, but his career has nothing to do with it. He was formatted, programmed with a father who also competed in motorbikes, which is not at all the profile of Johann who chose himself to become a pilot ", tells the former pilot Bernard Fau, author of the documentary" Johann Zarco, the audacity of a champion ".
The cat and the Mouse
They were born two steps from each other, but the Cannois Zarco and the Niçois Quartararo have taken years to find themselves together at the top.
When the eldest, crowned with two Moto2 titles, is at the highest level in 2017, the youngest is struggling to find a place in the sun in the lower categories.
In 2019, the roles are reversed: Quartararo explodes with Yamaha-SRT, while Zarco leaves KTM on bad terms.
The following year, the youngest started strong with the first two French victories in MotoGP since 1999. Zarco, riding a less efficient Ducati-Avintia, returned to pole and podium in the Czech Republic but received harsh criticism. after being embroiled in an impressive crash at the Austrian GP.
In 2021, the two drivers are promoted to top-notch teams and their trajectories finally seem to align: before their double in Doha, Zarco won 2nd place in the first GP of the season in Qatar and Quartararo 5th.
"I am happy to be back among the + top guys +, I had a blast the last two races," said the eldest.
To each his own style
The Ducati rider is "apart", according to his counterparts in the paddock.
Translation: no question of following the herd, even if it means testing apnea for training, or concentrating on leisure activities such as gardening or pétanque, where + Quarta + prefers fashion and video games.
Musician in his spare time (he plays the piano and the guitar), it is with his brother that "JZ" tackles the repertoire of the French variety.
His compatriot, him, exchanges his helmet with the Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo and readily discusses with the star of the discipline Lewis Hamilton.
However, once on his motorcycle, Zarco is no more relaxed than his rival: he thus signed the speed record in MotoGP at the end of March in Qatar (362.4 km / h).
A common ambition
Different, the two French have the same goal: to become the first French driver to win a world title in the premier class.
"Johann wants to be world champion. He wants to win, not to be second, not to be a Poulidor," Laurent Fellon already explained in 2017.
As for Quartararo, his results make him a natural candidate for the title.
"At the moment, I believe in motorcycles but I cannot say that it will work all year round," he cautiously contented himself with commenting in Qatar.
There remains an unknown named Marc Marquez: the Spaniard, six-time MotoGP world champion, missed the entire 2020 season after a heavy fall, and did not participate in the first two races in 2021. His presence in Portimao ( Portugal), where the next GP will take place, must be decided in the coming days.
Either way, the truth of the first GPs is not necessarily that of the season: despite his two inaugural victories in 2020, Quartararo slumped down and finished in 8th place, far behind the Spanish champion Joan Mir, the most regular.
© 2021 AFP