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MotoGP 2024: Le Mans – Anything Can Happen; And It Probably Will

Image Source: MotoGP

I’m getting stuck on how to start these reports; there are only so many times that you can say, yet again, “Well, no one could have predicted that,” or, “Oh my goodness, what a race.” About the only thing that was predictable was Jorge Martin’s dominant Sprint race victory, his 12th since the format was introduced.

But even that wasn’t a given, despite his incredible, record-breaking, pole position lap, the first ever around the Bugatti circuit under 1 minute 30 seconds. Even a late crash in qualifying, which can normally be the kiss of death to a pole position, did nothing to dent his dominance. With Francesco Bagnaia alongside him – and a very fast Maverick Viñales – there was no guarantee that the Sprint race would go the way of Martin. Likewise, there was no guarantee that Marc Marquez would play any part in the front running, having failed to get through Q1 and starting 13th.

Image Source: MotoGP

It just shows you what we know! While Martin streaked to an immediate lead, Bagnaia had a dreadful start, finishing the first lap down in 14th, before running off-track soon after and touring around to the pits, his race run. Conversely, Marc Marquez pulled a masterstroke and lay 4th at the end of the first lap, which became third after Aleix Espargaro served the first of his two long-lap penalties, and second after Marco Bezzecchi threw away a certain second place near the end of the race, just when it looked like he might have a chance of catching Martin.

Image Source: MotoGP

It was breathless stuff and the joy on Martin’s, Marquez’s’ and Viñales’ faces was matched by the thunderous look on Bagnaia’s face as he sat in his pit garage, seeing his deficit to Martin grow to 29 points and having team-mate Bastiannini overtake him in the championship standings (all that would change after the Main race, however).

Image Source: Ducati

Prior to this, all the talk had been about the new-for-2027 regulations which mandate – as if you haven’t already heard – 850cc engines, no ride-height or hole-shot suspension systems and a huge reduction in aero efficiency.

These measures have drawn varying opinions from riders, although the general view has been that a reduction in the reliance on electronic systems will allow the better riders to rise to the top, rather than making it easy (!) for any rider on the grid to fight at the front (which is surely what has enabled MotoGP to be so thrilling in the past couple of seasons…)

Image Source: MotoGP

Bagnaia was one of the mildly dissenting voices: “I just care again about being fast, like I am right now,” began Bagnaia. “I want to be competitive and understand the situation, understand the new bikes and then to be the strongest again.

“I’m curious to try the new engine, the 850cc. It will be nice to have a change, but the thing that is strange to me is that we are on top of motorsport development and improving and prototypes have to be the strongest, but we will go to reduce the speed which is a bit strange. But if we want more battles, the only thing to remove is the aerodynamics. The rest is not for a battle, it is for safety.”

Image Source: Ducati

Jorge Martin sees the reduction in aero technology as a positive step; “I think it will be interesting for the most talented riders to get used to these new bikes,” said Martin. “I think that with fewer devices the battles will be easier. We will overtake easier and in terms of speed, we will arrive where we are, that’s for sure or we will be close. But I think for the battles and the show it will be better. I’m really happy about that.”

Martin then admitted that current technology involved in MotoGP bikes has levelled the playing field a bit too much; “now, with all the devices and the technical side we have, I think the bad riders – well not the bad riders because they are all good and this is MotoGP – but they close the gap to the best riders. It is much easier to ride these new bikes and going to these new bikes in 2027 will be interesting for sure. The value of the rider will increase. Nobody knows in 2027 so let’s wait.”

Image Source: MotoGP

Maverick Viñales, spoke about the rule changes and also believes those with more technique will have the advantage; “without the rear ride-height device I think it will be more technical. It will be good for the riders who have more technique. Especially now, you can go full gas on acceleration and just let the bike work. But without the rear device, you have to work a lot more on the acceleration. So the riders who have a little bit more technique will rise up.”

Image Source: MotoGP

The underlying thinking, of course, is that speeds are simply getting too fast for current circuit safety, especially the older circuits on the calendar with less adequate run-off areas. But another way of looking at it is to realise that a good shake-up of the regulations is necessary to prevent things becoming stale. With a clean slate, all the manufacturers have a chance to reset and potentially steal a march on their rivals; who knows who will get it right and who will get it wrong and who would bet against Honda and Yamaha catapulting themselves back to the front and current leaders Ducati getting their sums minutely wrong and being off the pace? Stranger things have happened.

Image Source: MotoGP

The last time MotoGP tried to reduce engine displacement was during the 800cc era of 2007 to 2011. The change did little to reduce lap times but spelt an end to close racing for the duration. Now we have an era of unprecedented close racing and it will be a shame if the rule changes put an end to that, however temporary. You just have to hope that Dorna and the teams have done their homework to prevent a repeat of the 800cc era’s relative boredom.

Image Source: KTM

As an aside, with MotoGP reducing engine displacement, a knock-on effect will be World Superbikes having to suffer a performance reduction as well. Can’t have a production-based series out-performing a prototype-based series! Also, what happens to Moto2? Can’t have Moto2 bikes lapping nearly as fast as MotoGP! This discussion is set to run for a while.

And now let’s just take a moment to catch our breath before we talk about that Main race. It is considered very poor journalism to resort to swearing but every now and then, you just have to!

Image Source: MotoGP

Holy shit, what a race! Not a huge amount of overtaking at the front but the tension in the last ten laps was almost unbearable. In fact, the tension all the way through was pretty strong.

Bagnaia’s done it before; had a terrible Sprint and then came back fighting in the Main race and it was just like that in France. Leading from the start, with Martin snapping at his heels, there was always the fear that one or both of them would disappear into the distance, leaving the rest to fight over the scraps.

Image Source: MotoGP

But Bagnaia and Martin didn’t streak off into the distance, Aleix Espargaro in third neither catching them nor losing ground. The real fireworks started when Marquez, who had again made rapid progress through the field, worked his way up to and got past Viñales, by that time running in third. In short order, Marquez made up over two seconds to Bagnaia, by now behind Martin, who had passed the reigning champion but had not managed to pull any sort of gap. If a stalemate then ensued, it was at least enthralling, Marquez seemingly unable to make a move on Bagnaia and Bagnaia in turn unable to attack Martin or, at least, attack with any success. When this happens, you don’t need overtaking!

Image Source: MotoGP

All the way through, there was the greatest chance of one of them throwing it away thanks to the unrelenting pressure, but then they’re not the best in the world for nothing. Marquez pulled a last-lap do-or-die move on Bagnaia and was through. The last few corners were all but unwatchable but you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen. Martin looked as if he had it all covered in the lead but, let’s face it, it was Marc Marquez behind him and, behind Marquez, Bagnaia was not afraid to get his elbows out. The order remained the same to the flag but there was not a single moment when anyone – the riders or the spectators – could relax. Absolutely brilliant.

Image Source: MotoGP

There’s not been a duff race the whole season and, if this continues, then we’re going to have the second season in a row where the championship goes down to the wire and we’ll all need a good rest!

Love him or hate him – and there seems to be an equal number in both camps – it is great to see Marquez fighting at the front again and it is surely only a matter of time before Marquez wins a race. From 13th to second in both Sprint and Main races; that’s not luck and it’s great to see him fighting at the front again. Don’t forget that he’s riding a year-old Ducati GP23 and still managed to split the factory GP24s.

Image Source: MotoGP

I would not want to be in Ducati’s shoes right now, with three of the best riders on the grid all deserving a move to the factory squad for 2025 or, at least, a current bike in 2025. Bastianini is doing a good job of showing that he deserves to retain the seat but you can’t ignore the form of Martin, nor the marketing pull of Marquez, who is strengthening his case with every passing race.

Pedro Acosta had a lacklustre weekend by his standards, culminating in his first big mistake of the year. Even when crashing, he makes us draw a sharp intake of breath as somehow he slid between Aleix Espargaro and Fabio Di Giannantonio, with inches to spare at either end of his sliding machine. Isn’t it funny how we have so quickly become familiar with him running at the front?

Image Source: MotoGP

Brad Binder had a dreadful qualifying, being delayed from getting onto the track in Q1 by a technical issue with his bike, resulting in a desperately disappointing last place on the grid. He converted that into 15th in the Sprint but a much more encouraging eighth in the Main race after a battle with Franco Morbidelli. By any standard, it was an exceptional ride; it’s just that it received no coverage whatsoever.

Image Source: KTM

Oh, and what a surprise, the Hondas and Yamahas had races to forget, Fabio Quartararo’s heroics in qualifying notwithstanding. The new rules cannot come quickly enough for the Japanese manufacturers.

Image Source: MotoGP

Next, we head back to Spain for the Catalunya GP. After every race weekend we ask ourselves how it can get any better and every race weekend, it does. We’re going to need some strong tranquillisers before the season is out!

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
From an early age, Harry was obsessed with anything that moved under its own steam, particularly cars and motorcycles. For reasons of a financial nature, his stable of fine automobiles failed to materialise, at which point he realised that motorcycles were far more affordable and so he started his two wheel career, owning, riding, building and fixing many classic bikes. Then came the day when he converted his love of bikes into a living, writing, filming and talking about them endlessly. The passion for four wheels never left him, however, and he has now converted his writing skills into singing the praises of cars in all their infinite variety. Bikes are still his favourite means of getting around but the car in its modern form is reaching a level of perfection that is hard to resist. And they're warmer in winter....
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