Motorcycling-Emotional Quartararo wins maiden MotoGP title for France

FILE PHOTO: MotoGP - Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying - Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Misano, Italy - October 23, 2021 Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP's Fabio Quartararo during qualifying REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

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

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.

"I still can't believe it," the 22-year-old 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."

Quartararo's 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.

Honda's Pol Espargaro finished second and Quartararo looked set to finish on the podium as well, but he was overtaken on the final lap by Enea Bastianini, who moved up from 16th to third on his Avintia Esponsorama.

That did not dampen Quartararo's celebrations, however, as the Frenchman soaked in the adulation of the crowd that lit blue flares to celebrate his victory while he danced on the track with the French flag draped around his shoulders.

Ducati's Jack Miller pressed team mate Bagnaia in the first few laps but the Australian made a mistake on turn 15, sliding off the track and conceding second place.

Miller's crash allowed Marquez to move up to second after he made his way through the field from seventh on the grid and the Spaniard piled the pressure on Bagnaia before taking the lead.

Quartararo made a poor start from 15th on the grid before he put his head down and reeled in the main group.

For Marquez, it was a third victory of the season and his first at a clockwise circuit since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2019 but the six-times champion said the it was Quartararo's day.

"Today is not my day, today is for Fabio. I want to congratulate him, he deserves this. He had an incredible season," Marquez said.

"Congrats to the Yamaha team, we will try to make things difficult next year."

The Grand Prix was also seven-times premier class champion Valentino Rossi's final race on home soil as the 42-year-old Italian, who finished 10th, bids farewell at the end of the season.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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