MotoGP: More From The Grand Prix Of Qatar

MotoGP: More From The Grand Prix Of Qatar

© 2024, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By Michael Gougis.

Pre-season testing raises questions, and racing answers them. Sunday’s Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar was only the first race weekend in a long season, but it showed that MotoGP looks much the same as it did at the end of 2023, although there were a few intriguing developments. The dominant force in the class last year, Ducati showed that it is still the bike to beat, that Jorge Martin is still a monster in the Sprints and Francesco Bagnaia is still sublime over the distance of a full Grand Prix.

After Bagnaia smashed lap records in pre-season testing, finishing the Sprint race off the podium seemed like an underachievement. But the defending MotoGP World Champion, who has an ability to stay calm and rebound from disappointments, regrouped and led every lap of the Grand Prix. More than that, he looked like he was in complete control the entire time, going faster when someone got close, and when it was over no one had gotten close enough to even attempt a pass.

Pedro Acosta Qatar
Pedro Acosta (31). Photo by Michael Gougis.

Defending Moto2 World Champion and MotoGP rookie Pedro Acosta rode like a seasoned professional, finishing second of the four KTM/GASGAS machines on the grid in both races and running with the leaders, even at the cost of destroying his tires, to observe what they were doing. It has been a long, hard road for Tech3 since joining the KTM family, but the excitement in Acosta’s garage in Qatar was palpable. The team believes they have a MotoGP race winner on their bike. And it was interesting to note that Acosta had the very latest KTM aero upgrades on his machine.

Marc Marquez Qatar
Marc Marquez (93). Photo by Michael Gougis.

Marc Marquez fought with the leaders and looked a lot happier than he did at the end of last season when he was with Honda. On a year-old Ducati Desmosedici, Marquez set the fastest lap of Sprint race. With the Honda RC213Vs now buried toward the bottom of the time sheets at Qatar, it gives you an appreciation of just how much of the bike’s past success was due solely to Marquez.

Luca Marini Qatar
Luca Marini (10). Photo by Michael Gougis.

Honda’s riders praised the new RC213V during pre-season testing, but in the heat of battle, it proved no more competitive than last year’s machine. Luca Marini was dead last in the Sprint race and ran last for much of the Grand Prix after KTM’s Jack Miller crashed and remounted and passed Marini.

Alex Rins Qatar
Alex Rins (42). Photo by Michael Gougis.

Yamaha’s Alex Rins and Fabio Quartararo said that it would take time for the team’s off-season technical personnel acquisitions to make significant improvements in the performance of the YZF-R1. Quartararo wasn’t exactly downcast during the post-Grand Prix media scrums, but the timing of his told the story – he rushed to the media center and got his publicity responsibilities out of the way and left before the fireworks from the podium celebration had even started. Quartararo was the top-finishing rider on a Japanese bike on Sunday in 10th place, more than 17 seconds back after 21 laps.

Raul Fernandez Qatar
Raul Fernandez (25). Photo by Michael Gougis.

Aprilia’s pre-season promise seemed to fall apart when the lights went out in Qatar. Aleix Espargaro’s third in the Sprint was the high point of the weekend for the Aprilia squad. The American Trackhouse Racing team’s best was 13th and 14th by Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez in Saturday’s Sprint.

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