Fabio Quartararo will have his first chance to wrap up the 2019 MotoGP Rookie of the Year title at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Although the young Petronas Yamaha star has far exceeded expectations, the top newcomer goal was the original target handed to him by the team for this season.

Quartararo is currently 85 points ahead of Joan Mir and will confirm the rookie crown if he leaves Japan at least 75 points ahead of the Suzuki rider.

But having led across the line for all but the last lap in Thailand, many are tipping the young Frenchman to take a historic MotoGP victory during the remaining four rounds.

It took until a few corners to go for world champion Marc Marquez to find a way to stay in front of the Frenchman in Buriram, but Quartararo fought back with what one member of a rival team later hailed as a 'Schwantz at Hockenheim '91' braking move into the last corner.

With his rear wheel hovering in the air, Quartararo made the daring the pass stick, but couldn't quite shut the door and stop Marquez cutting underneath him on the exit.

As the following table shows, it was nonetheless the closest a satellite Yamaha rider has ever got to a MotoGP victory:

The six closest second-places by satellite Yamaha riders:

+0.171s Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) Thailand 2019

+0.251s Johann Zarco (Tech3 Yamaha) Argentina 2018

+0.337s Johann Zarco (Tech3 Yamaha) Valencia 2017

+0.903s Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) San Marino 2019

+1.360s Colin Edwards (Tech3 Yamaha) Great Britain 2009

+1.559s Cal Crutchlow (Tech3 Yamaha) Germany 2013

Quartararo may also feel the Motegi circuit owes him some luck after being stripped of a Moto2 victory last season, when his Speed Up machine failed a post-race tyre pressure check.

“We’ll keep working in the same way as we have in the past few weeks, and try to challenge for a good position and to aim for the podium," Quartararo said. "We’re also obviously keeping an eye on the Rookie of the Year title with Motegi being the first place where it can be won - but there’s no rush on it either!

"We’ve seen that Marc [Marquez] has been really fast at Motegi in the past, but it’s also a circuit where I was very strong last year, and for sure it’s going to feel great to be able to ride a MotoGP bike there.”

As well as the Rookie table, Quartararo is also leading the satellite standings, by 24 points over Pramac Ducati's Jack Miller and is just two points behind factory Yamaha's Valentino Rossi for sixth in the world championship.

Team-mate Franco Morbidelli is tenth in the standings, after taking another top-six finish in Thailand.

“Motegi is a very important weekend, and we’ll have to try and make a good result for Yamaha at their home race," said the Italian. "I have great memories there, I’ve been on the podium before, and I like the track and Japan in general. It’s a particular layout and one that is quite tricky, but it suits me.

"My aim for the rest of the season is to continue the way we’ve been working, having solid race weekends and improving where we can to make another step forward.

"MotoGP is a category where anything can happen, but Yamaha has been on a good trend since Silverstone and hopefully we can carry on like that in the flyaway races.”

 

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