Quartararo the man to chase

Now for No 3: Fabio Quartararo (left) and Valentino Rossi celebrate with a fist bump after Quartararo won the race with Rossi finishing third at the Andalucia MotoGP. — AP

PETALING JAYA: With two straight wins in his pocket, Fabio Quartararo is now the man to chase in the world MotoGP – and all eyes are on him as he bids for a hattrick for Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (SRT) at the Czech Republic Grand Prix this weekend.

With two victories from two pole positions, the in-form Frenchman heads the MotoGP standings with a perfect 50 points.

Quartararo’s first premier-class wins, also the first for the team, were delivered in stunning style at Jerez Circuit. But he will face a tougher challenge to make it three-in-a-row at Brno, if the statistics are any indication.

Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo is the only Yamaha rider to have triumphed at the track in the past nine years.

Last year’s race ended without a Yamaha bike in the top five. Quartararo finished seventh as a rookie on a lower spec bike last year but he is confident of fighting for the podium this Sunday.

However, the Frenchman’s chances have been boosted by the absence of reigning world champion Marc Marquez, who will sit out the Czech GP as well after going for a second operation on his broken right arm.

“This week has been good to just sit back and enjoy the first two GPs of the season.

“Brno is a track that I really like. We know from last year that we can be fast there and that we have the performance, even if it is not the best place for our bike.

“There are a lot of great corners but the last corner is one of the best. You have to go in with a lot of corner speed but also prepare to take the perfect line for the straight.

“It’s great to be going there after taking two wins and we are looking for a podium finish this weekend. Our expectations are high and I can’t wait, ” said the 21-year-old Quartararo, who holds a 10-point lead over Spaniard Maverick Vinales.

Teammate Franco Morbidelli is also looking to make a quick rebound after engine issues prevented the Italian from grabbing his first career podium.

Morbidelli was in the leading group but was forced to retire half-way at the Andalucia Grand Prix in Jerez two weeks ago. He finished fifth in the opening race, also in Jerez.

“My expectations for Brno are high, especially as it’s a circuit that I really like, ” he said. “Looking at the level we had in Jerez, we are expecting good things this weekend.

“I think we will have some good battles and I aim to be in the top five, ” said Morbidelli.

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