Dre’s Race Review: MotoGP’s 2024 Assen TT

Pecco Bagnaia destroyed the field at his favourite track as Jorge Martin could barely keep up. That and Marc Marquez vs the tyre pressure rule as Dre reviews the Assen TT.

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Read time: 6 mins

“May the beatings continue until morale improves.” – Samoa Joe Francesco Bagnaia

Welcome back to the second half of my DRRs for this weekend. This time, we head north to the Netherlands and one of MotoGP’s blue-ribbon events, the Assen TT and the 99th year of its running. I’m going to be real with you readers, I would have something wittier to say here in this intro, but I can’t say much more besides Pecco Bagnaia decided to beat the everloving brakes off the field. Let’s see how much I can squeeze out of this lemon.

We should have known. Two signs were there going into Assen this past weekend where I should have seen what was about to happen. Number one was that I forgot that Pecco Bagnaia had the Assen track layout tattooed on his shoulder. It’s his favourite track and the home of his first win back in 2016 when he was a Mahindra rider in Moto3. Says a lot about you when you’re inking a track on your body (FN – Unless you’re Zak Brown). 

The second sign was FP1. Bagnaia was the fastest man in the session. This was his 94th MotoGP premier class weekend and it was the first time he finished an FP1 fastest. We should have run for the fucking hills.

Bagnaia was perfect. He qualified on pole, nearly a second faster than Bez’s 2023 pole, and the first-ever 90-second lap of Assen on two wheels. He won the Sprint comfortably and then did it again at the Grand Prix. Early on, Jorge Martin tried to put pressure on him and every time he did, Bagnaia counter-punched. At one point, he put down a 1:31.8 in race trim, a lap time fast enough for 11th on the grid. As you could have guessed, this was a Grand Slam (Pole, Win, Fastest Lap, Leading Every Lap).

And it resulted in a couple of major milestones – The first time a rider has won at Assen three years in a row since Mick Doohan (culminating in 1998). The first time a rider has done a Double Double, winning back-to-back Sprints and Grand Prix. This was Bagnaia’s 23rd win in the scarlet red. With World Championships breaking the tie, Bagnaia is now Ducati’s most successful rider ever.

His race time was 30 seconds faster than last year’s. Over a second a lap quicker than anyone else. Almost everyone in the points this year, would have won a year ago. Startling.

Bagnaia had a poor start to his title defence, but he’s ironed out the chatter issues the Ducati GP24 had and is starting to suffocate this Championship. The only thing that’s mitigating the damage is that Jorge Martin is the only man who’s capable of staying with him. Martin still leads the way, but the gap has shrunk to 10. It’s not panic stations for Jorge yet, and we know both men have the “bozo” gene that can lead to silly mistakes, but it’s hard to ignore that Bagnaia’s now won four of the last five with little competition. The winds of change are blowing…

It’s hard not to talk about Marc Marquez in MotoGP for a column, and the man found a way. He was in the second group of riders as Martin and Bagnaia rode into the distance. He did something strange early on too – He let fellow GP23 rider Fabio Di Giannantonio pass and let him dictate the pace of the second group. It turns out Marquez was conscious of the tyre pressure rules and knew he was close to the limit. He was going to be okay, until a late pass by Enea Bastianini at Turn 1 led to contact and Marquez running wide. That took him over the top because he was one lap over the regulated distance and by 0.01 bar. It’s harsh, but rules are rules. It dropped Marquez from 4th to 10th due to the penalty now being a steep 16 seconds. 

But Marquez himself raised a valid point about the tyre pressure regulations and a potential market inefficiency with them. If you’re pushed off the track and you’ve got to react to such a move and that flags up your tyre pressure as a breach, is that on you? Is that something you should be responsible for? Marquez accepted his penalty given the state of the rules but was also quick to point that out, and the stewards agreed that it’s something that will be looked at. As much as I’m the first person to say “rules are rules”, some common sense should be applied. 

Take Miguel Oliveira for example. He had to take a long lap penalty for track limits. Fine. He tried taking his penalty but ran wide and ended up in the gravel. Then he had to take the penalty again for “non-compliance”, despite clearly losing far more time getting out of the gravel. I get why the rule is in place, it’s so it’s not exploited by cutting the track limits, but it’s pretty clear Miggy didn’t gain an advantage in doing that. 

The penalty system we have in place in MotoGP right now is largely fine, but it still needs that human element from the stewards’ box to apply it properly. This race showed that further work is required. 

And yeah, the Marc Marquez title push is probably going to have to be put on ice. 58 points back is a long way, Ducati have made it clear they intend to support Martin for the rest of 2024, and eagle-eyed folks on Twitter pointed out that Diggia got an adjusted GP23 for Assen and not Marc. And with GP24 developments only likely to get faster and not the customer bike they don’t want to support, the growing gap between the GP23 and 24 is likely only going to get bigger. Still, it is the Sachsenring next week…

The calendar changes to MotoGP in 2024 are becoming a bit farcical. Kazakhstan is off entirely not for 2024 after being delayed due to regional flooding. It was moved into India’s September slot, but that’s now gone and will be replaced with a second race in Qatar. In late September. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s two weeks earlier than the F1 race in 2023 which had over half the paddock suffer some degree of heat exhaustion. And fresh off the back of a new partnership with Qatar Airways, it isn’t a good look for the series. My heart goes out to the freelancers who have to rearrange their travel plans again. Hope the Insurance covers it (Which I doubt.)

This might sound somewhat snide, but I’m very glad that Aprilia are taking the potential of Marco Bezzecchi into account and not his current form because… man.

If Enea Bastianini had his pace in the first half of a race… Phew. 

Fermin Aldeguer still looks very raw to me as a potential top-end talent. Second race in a row he has a comfortable lead and gets dinged for track limits. It’s back-to-back wins he’s thrown away now, and Ai Ogura’s now just 14 points off the top of the standings. Poor discipline from Aldeguer, who should know better. And on a sad note, best wishes to Joe Roberts who suffered a broken collarbone after high-siding it during practice. Brutal. 

Also, that’s 10 out of the last 11 in terms of wins for Boscoscuro as a chassis and an announcement today that Marc VDS are making the switch for 2025. I know they’re a small outfit, but they may have to expand because it’s more than obvious they’re the chassis to be on in Moto2 now. 

Was Moto3’s Colin Veijer and Quadrant athlete Ivan Ortola’s brilliant fight for the win the Norris vs Verstappen preview we didn’t know we needed? 

Oh yeah, and Lewis Hamilton may end up buying Gresini. That would be a wild but believable one given Liberty’s MotoGP purchase, the commercial crossover of brands like Monster, and Lewis’ own desire to expand his business portfolio, such as that influencer stake in the Denver Broncos, Almave, Mission44, fashion etc. Makes a whole lot of sense for a lot of people.

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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