“I get killed on a motorcycle”

At the age of 22, he is the first French motorcycle world champion. At Paris Match, he confided his winning secrets.

A young man, jumping, opens the door of his house planted on a snowy slope in the Pyrenees. He smiles with all his teeth, jumps more than he walks, gives off the energy of a wild horse locked in a box. He hides this nuclear turbine, which knocks in his bowels, behind fresh mentholated smiles, the relaxation of an old media veteran and an equally good mood: he is on holiday, he is there for that, and above all he is. Wow. It is his fame that haunts him in the paddocks and beyond: crowned MotoGP world champion on October 24 in Misano, Italy, 22-year-old Fabio Quartararo, the first French champion in the history of the queen category, is a young man appreciated by all. An American rap melody resounds in the living room, a game console controller is placed on the coffee table. Everything is in order. His clothes hang in his garage, next to the beautiful cars, a Ferrari F8, an Audi RS6, a BMW M2 and dirt bikes; Fabio doesn’t have a motorcycle license.

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What happens after this announcement?

Order pizzas for your guests while the photographer prepares his equipment. He will eat a salad: “I have to be careful. In weight every day, I tend to gain weight. The voice is balanced, calm, with a light and strange accent. The champion left school early (“She didn’t teach me anything useful!”), But she always spoke Spanish on her bike, English or Italian to her engineers, French to her family and relatives . First impression: its cheerful simplicity, which radiates the home decorated with trophies and helmets, is not feigned. Second Impression: It’s not just an impression. Fabio doesn’t really have an egocentric diva soul. In an individual sport such as motorcycling, his benevolent and conciliatory personality stands out. In general, to drive as fast as he can, cracks need to hate someone, play bad guys when they brake. This biker is dug into another, softer forest, a species of which we make excellent boy scouts but few champions. And yet … His agent, Éric Mahé, also a former champion, meditates on his foal with a tender and lucid look: “Fabio does not need enemies to be the best, this is what makes him unique. »

What happens after this announcement?

You have to see him politely spelling his name at the reception of a sports pavilion in La Massana, a village planted in the reliefs of the Pyrenees, where he lives, in Andorra, in front of a young woman unknown to the current mechanics. Behind him, in the lobby, laugh men who have recognized the world champion. Fabio Quartararo, a friend of Kylian Mbappé or Neymar, is not upset; he acts non-stop and then goes to the gym to keep that slim, slender feline body that is his craft tool. Centuries ago, sailors came up with the idea of ​​tattooing their skin so that their surf-deformed bodies could be identified after a shipwreck. On Fabio Quartararo’s left arm and back, his tattoos closely map his history, his tastes, his personality: a tiger, his favorite animal; a rose, for her mother who works in a hairdresser in Nice; a note of music, because he listens to it all the time; a compass, for its relentless journeys to join the circuits of the planet; a clock, for this chrono against which he fights every turn of the track; a “Family first”, which says in two words the importance of ties; a cathedral and a virgin, because she believes in God.

Already on the track at the age of 5, with his parents, Étienne and Martine, his brother, Anthony. In Biot, summer 2004.

© DR

God also soon believed in Fabio, who at the age of 5 got on his first motorbike. His father, Etienne, a former French 125 motorcycle champion and locksmith, cannot believe his wealth. He quickly realizes that his little one’s passion will have to flourish beyond the Pyrenees, where age is not a problem to compete. At the age of 7, the Nice team started in the Spanish championship. With his father, he swallows every weekend the 1,200 kilometers back and forth that separate them from Catalonia. Fabio already shines in the sky, chaining victories (2008 in 50 cm3, 2009 in 70 cm3, 2011 in 80 cm3, 2012 in 125 cm3). Engines are getting bigger, coupes are piling up on the shelves. The boy earns a nickname, “The Devil,” the inscription on his first helmet. At the age of 13 he left his family home and moved to the south-east of Spain. In 2013 and 2014 he was the first Frenchman to dominate the Spanish Speed ​​Championship (CEV). When did you realize you had something else? “In 2006, I think,” he replies. I was 7 years old. On a training circuit, near Marseille, I fell, but I realized that I was faster than the others when they were older than me. »

What happens after this announcement?

What happens after this announcement?

At the age of 7 I fell, but I realized that it was faster than the others, bigger

In 2015, before the age of 15, thanks to an exemption, he entered the world championship. Little Mozart then lost track of his scores for three years. The results do not live up to expectations. The teenager has to endure immense pressure. These failures build the future winner, but first you have to experience them, digest them, think about them: “When I won the title, I thought about those years when no one believed me anymore, those comments on Instagram after “It was a bad season. There was a picture of me on the beach with some friends, and people were saying, ‘Go exercise instead of going to the beach.’

We will have to wait for the arrival of Eric Mahé to complete the construction of the champion. The veteran is the chief engineer of Fabio Quartararo’s daily life. He is in charge of his contracts with manufacturers, brands like IKKS, of which he is the muse, and of his public relations. “Everything, in fact,” he laughs. Fabio moves to Andorra and can concentrate on his piloting, while Eric advises, reassures, tightens the bolts, greases the gears, blocks the invaders. On his bike, Fabio is flexible, regular, serene, irresistible: in 2021 he won five times, so many pole positions, and finished all but one race. Each time, a third party accompanies him and completes the team. When you know nothing about this environment, its role is hard to explain: Thomas Maubant plays video games in the motorhome and listens, a happy shadow that follows Fabio wherever he goes. The race to the top is often a long, lonely road paved with sacrifices. An unshakable friend is a buoy to cling to.

Training time, at home in Andorra.

Training time, at home in Andorra.

© Ilan DEUTSCH / Paris Match

In front of a glass of sparkling water, Fabio laughs and sums up his philosophy on the court: “A boy in front of me is not normal. “Then he goes back to that kindness, that flexibility that everyone has told us about: ‘You can’t start the race by telling yourself you’re good. My personality changes when I get on my bike. I’m becoming a killer, without him you can’t be a world champion. Fabio talks about his training alone in the mountains, his travels, his life away from his parents and his brother, so important to him, his evenings that he, the partygoer, is strictly forbidden during the season, their days beginning and ending early. , the absence of friends in the paddock (“Respect, yes; friends, no”), loose ties with friends outside the world of motorcycling. And little by little, we are measuring the loneliness of the champion at high altitudes. “We get used to it,” he smiles. It’s the price to pay for enjoying the crazy sensations of speed and the ultimate pleasure of winning: “Happiness is so powerful when you know how long you’ve endured to get there!” »

When he was tall as a scooter, Fabio admired the immense Italian champion Valentino Rossi. This year, the Italian has retired, and the French, the legendary place in the Yamaha team. It’s your turn to inspire swarms of children. She is aware of this, although she is sometimes afraid to see children crying for joy on her way. We ask him a stupid question in hopes of getting a smart answer: Why do you think he goes faster than so many others who also train and sacrifice everything too? He merges after a few seconds of reflection: “Because I have Eric, Tom and my family with me. And also, maybe, because I’m having fun. »

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