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MotoGP 2024 – Place Your Bets!

Image source: KTM

Everyone obsesses about pre-season testing simply because it is the first time we have been treated to MotoGP bikes in action since the November season finale. As good as it is to see bikes, riders and teams back in action, the actual significance of testing is minimal and has very little to do with confirming or denying our predictions regarding the coming season.

Image source: KTM

All of the teams have incredibly complex testing schedules, with dozens of set-ups to compare, probably hundreds of new parts to properly assess and perhaps two or more chassis and engine configurations to try. No two teams are doing the same thing at the same time and that includes trying for a lap time or evaluating long-distance runs, let alone agreeing on a final specification, one that will be used for the bulk of the season, which is the only time where we will get the opportunity to compare one team’s efforts with another on a level playing field.

Image source: MotoGP

Nevertheless, we will make predictions and all those predictions centre around Ducati again being the team to beat, with Francesco Bagnaia leading the charge, while it is looking likely that Jorge Martin will not be far behind. In fact, there are no Ducati riders whom we should be prepared to ignore, even if there is one who will garner the lion’s share of the headlines, no matter how – or perhaps because of how – he will perform.

Image source: MotoGP

That rider, of course, is Marc Marquez, making his debut on a 2023 Ducati GP23. You have to feel a little sorry for his brother, Alex, who has been with Gresini for a while and who has immediately been relegated to number two in the team, not only in terms of (potential) performance but also in terms of the outside world’s perception and that includes the media in particular.

Image source: MotoGP

Should Alex manage to beat his brother and teammate, then it will be “because Marc is still learning the bike.” If Marc beats Alex, then it is because Marc is a multiple world champion and should be winning, thereby rubbing Alex’s lack of achievement in his face. No one has said that Alex will be fighting for the win from the season’s first race, but they have said that about Marc. Whether that is accurate or not, it doesn’t matter the fact that someone has said it, does!

Image source: MotoGP

It has to be a destabilising effect. No professional rider lacks the belief that they are the best in the world, conveniently ignoring the statistics, but when a rider who is arguably the best in the world joins your team, you have to feel the pressure, brother or not.

So, testing merely confirmed what we already know, which isn’t surprising: Ducati has been the team to beat for two seasons and it is hard to see any other manufacturer getting a consistent look-in in 2024, especially when you look at the depth of talent Ducati enjoys with its riders – Bagnaia, Martin, Bastianini, Marquez One and Two, Bezzecchi, Morbidelli and di Giannantonio – not to mention the machinery superiority. Yamaha and Honda still look all at sea, while KTM, despite its own depth in talent, is inconsistent. Aprilia could spring a surprise, but it too is inconsistent.

Image source: MotoGP

What is more fascinating is the contract situation heading into 2025. As it stands, only three riders have contracts for 2025; Brad Binder (to the end of 2026), Marini and Zarco (both to the end of 2025). Acosta has signed a one-year deal, but that is understood to be only because KTM has two factory riders signed for 2024 on water-tight contracts (although that didn’t seem to matter in the case of Pol Espargaro…) and he will be on a factory KTM in 2025, likely at the expense of Jack Miller.

Image source: KTM

That leaves virtually the whole grid looking for a ride in 2025 and what a fascinating prospect that is. Of course, no one would dare to presume that Bagnaia will be tempted away from Ducati but stranger things have happened. If Honda and Yamaha – and, to a lesser extent, KTM and Aprilia – don’t get their act together this year, then expect the Ducati seats to be the most hotly contested.

Of equal importance is the fact that three satellite teams are without signed contracts with manufacturers for 2025: VR46, Pramac and LCR. VR46 has been strongly linked with Yamaha, finally giving that team more than two riders on the grid, although why any team would willingly ditch the manufacturer and bikes of the moment is hard to fathom. However, Rossi remains a Yamaha ambassador, so the commercial prospects of a tie-in between the VR46 team and Yamaha are hard to ignore.

Image source: MotoGP

Given Pramac’s performance last year, it is hard to believe Ducati will allow the team to slip through its fingers, although KTM is keen to increase its presence on the grid and Pramac would be an obvious target. But, were Pramac to defect to KTM, would Jorge Martin relish a change of manufacturer (should he again miss out on a promotion to the factory team, in which case, he might tire of Ducati’s procrastination over employing his services and be open to a new challenge), KTM’s progress notwithstanding?

Image source: MotoGP

Similarly, LCR has long pinned its fortunes on Honda and faces the uncomfortable prospect of having to make a decision sooner rather than later to secure a Ducati or KTM contract, before anyone really knows how well Honda has progressed. Honda has floundered recently but who’s to say the company won’t get its act together, if not completely in 2024, but in 2025? Who is to say Honda won’t hit a sweet spot just as Ducati begins a decline? The history of the sport is riddled with examples of both riders and satellite teams making the wrong move at the wrong time.

Image source: MotoGP

It’s all part of the fascinating world of MotoGP, where the on-track action is merely a small part of the overall picture. As this is being written, there are less than two weeks to go before the first race of the season; a race that will no doubt throw up more questions than answers. We can’t wait!

Image source: MotoGP
Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Harry has been obsessing about motorbikes for over 45 years, riding them for 38 years and writing and talking about them for 13 years. In that time, he has ridden everything from an Aprilia to a Zundapp, from the 1920s to the 2020s. His favourites are the ones that didn’t break down and leave him stranded. While he loves the convenience of modern bikes, he likes nothing better than getting his hands dirty keeping old bikes running, just as long as it’s not by the roadside! Old enough to know better and young enough not to care, he knows you don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding.
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