Dre’s Race Review: MotoGP’s 2024 GP of the Americas

Maverick Vinales makes history with an incredible, dominant weekend on US Soil as MotoGP triumphs in its first race under Liberty. (Not that kind). Dre on a HEAPED weekend at COTA.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 11 mins

“Nanananananana… Bat Mav.”

Well, it’s been a hell of a fortnight in MotoGP land. One of the most genuinely newsworthy in years, certainly since the infamous Sepang 2015 media firestorm. But at the centre of it all was Maverick “Batman” Vinales, who made history at the Circuit of the Americas to become just the fifth man in history and the first in the MotoGP era to win a Grand Prix with three different manufacturers, but it leads to deep dives on the state of Aprilia, Marc Marquez, Fabio Quartararo and the state of the sport as a whole. There are going to be a lot of branching paths here, so bear with me, but here’s a loaded DRR on the BatMav and everything in between!

Wow. I genuinely didn’t think Maverick Vinales had it in him. When he lost his job at Yamaha, I made a Drebrief video detailing his fall from grace. For those new here, Maverick was a child prodigy who had beaten Nico Terol on a 125cc bike when he was still 16 and in just his fourth-ever start. A Moto3 Champion at 18, the only Moto2 rider to keep a dominant Marc VDS team honest, and gave us Suzuki’s first win since coming back in the top flight in 2016. Maverick was supposed to be the Marquez stopper, and it never quite worked out that way.

There was always an enigmatic attitude behind the immense talent. He spat his dummy out and quit on his Avintia team when there were disputes over his future when he first got to the World Championship ladder. He never quite made the Yamaha team his own as Valentino Rossi was still competitive until his final season in blue, and he quickly was surpassed by another prodigy in Fabio Quartararo. And of course, we all know what happened in 2021 when the beginnings of Yamaha’s decline made him lash out at his team bosses, and then try to detonate his bike in Austria. 

It could have been the end of his GP career as a rider not to be trusted. But Aprilia gave him a second chance and it appears to have given Maverick a new lease of life. A genuine family vibe at the Noale team as he matured into married life and fatherhood. Aleix Espargaro has become a close friend, and we’ve seen Mav look genuinely happy. But there was always a question mark over his form. Maverick was meant to be the Marc Marquez stopper. And when Marquez got hurt, other elite riders took over, like Joan Mir, the aforementioned Quartararo and now Francesco Bagnaia as Ducati’s taken over the sport. Maverick, now with 10 wins in the premier class, has always left us wanting more. 

This weekend was the best he’s ever looked on a MotoGP bike. It was beautiful, it was fast, and it was dominant. 

Vinales was the first man to go into the 2:00’s in qualifying, beating the field by a third of a second. He dominated the sprint as the Ducati riders and Pedro Acosta fought for scraps. And I’ll be the first to admit, the mental doubts that have always been there with Maverick creeped in before the Grand Prix. Maverick’s greatest enemy has always been himself. And it looked like that was happening again with another clumsy start where the pole sitter was bumped down into 11th place.

But Maverick backed himself, backed his pace, and as the field got into another heated exchange at the front, Mav quickly came into play, sized up his rivals one by one, got to the front and stayed there. It was a masterclass in riding precision and I’ve never seen Maverick ride with such smoothness and confidence as the chaos around him unfolded.

As said in the intro, Maverick’s become the first man to win a MotoGP race with three different manufacturers (Suzuki, Yamaha, Aprilia), and just the fifth man ever to do it in a premier class race (Mike Hailwood, Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson and Loris Capirossi the other four). It goes to show you the talent, and the versatility of the newly christened BatMav has always been there. And just like that, he sits third in the Championship, a place he hasn’t sat at since his last ride to the summit in 2021. If his gearbox didn’t explode in Portimao, he’d only be a handful of points off the top of the standings altogether.

There are question marks about Aprilia, their form and whether they can keep this up, but for now, a salute to Top Gun, because just like on the silver screen, there’s still room for a sequel. 

Speaking of Aprilia, they needed this win badly as it masks a somewhat embarrassing faux pas in regards to chasing Fabio Quartararo. Fabio had left the door open for potentially leaving Yamaha but chose to sign a two-year extension with the team this time last week, with the press quick to report his new massive $12,000,000 a year extension, with that number allegedly there times higher than what Aprilia could offer.

Now don’t get me wrong, that salary number for Fabio is enormous, it’s Jorge Lorenzo at Ducati money. But with Aprilia’s biggest bottleneck at the moment potentially being its riders (Sorry Aleix), if you can’t afford to sign one of the two or three best riders in the world, then what else can’t you afford to develop? Questions will be asked here. Now, Aleix did say that according to what he was told, Aprilia never made an official offer, so this could all be BS, but I have serious doubts that no communication took place.

And in any case, Aprilia needs to keep digging. They’re the #2 team in the field right now on current form and they have a serious chance of being able to make an upgrade. Jorge Martin’s made it abundantly clear that he’s leaving Pramac at the end of the year and Ducati are going to have a headache with both him, Enea Bastianini and Marc Marquez all on the table as potential teammates for Francesco Bagnaia, and Fermin Aldeguer waiting in the wings as an investment in their future. 

Any one of those three names mentioned would likely be an upgrade on what Aprilia has, regardless of whether it’s Vinales or Espargaro’s seat they’re taking. Their bike is good enough to win in favourable conditions, COTA was their fourth in the last two years. A truly elite rider could bridge the gap between them and what looks like a vulnerable Ducati at the front of the field. They need to get the chequebooks out and make a big investment because I think there are opportunities here for the Noale team to take advantage of. 

PS: As Matt Dunn, the former MotoGP commentator and former American Racing Team social manager rightly pointed out, it wouldn’t hurt if the team actually invested in their social media team and got themselves out there a bit. I’ve never watched a piece of standalone Aprilia content and they just had one of the most important weekends in their history. Maverick’s redemption arc rights itself and would be prime material for investors to get behind… and yet they moan about not being able to generate sponsors. Hmm. (Note: This isn’t just an Aprilia problem, it’s a MotoGP across-the-board problem within the sport. Check out Matt’s blog here for more on the promotional side of the game, it’s well worth your time)

Again, speaking of which…

So now we’re in the Liberty Media era of MotoGP, one thing I’ve repeatedly heard hammered out in other journalists’ blogs that a “Ride to Survive” series would immediately give the sport the same shot in the arm that F1 had. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t think its as simple as that. 

A lot of people have missed a lot of nuance behind Drive to Survive and the elements beyond that that have made F1 as fresh as it has been in the eyes of many. I’ve said it before on this page, that DTS was the culmination of a sustained heavy marketing campaign when Liberty Media first got into the sport. “Engineered Insanity” was the tagline, and a lot of it was just F1 catching up to the rest of global sport when it came to social media outreach. We didn’t race hashtags in F1 until 2014. We didn’t get the modern F1 style of video content until 2017. Getting a massive 9-figure TV deal with ESPN in the US was a game changer, it was rights that Bernie couldn’t give away in America in years past. 

And let’s not forget, the DTS Season that blew up on social media when the pandemic began… was Season 2, the first to feature Mercedes and Ferrari, the sports biggest teams, and the series was front page on Netflix just as the world needed new shit to bingewatch. 

There have been spin-offs of DTS from other sports (Some from the same Box Box Box production firm), such as “Full Swing” for Golf, “Break Point” for Tennis, “Unchained” for the Tour De France, and Quarterback for the NFL, but I don’t think any has been able to replicate that bridge effect for people who know about said sport and now who KNOW about said sport if you catch my drift. A lot of sports have seen F1’s dangling carrot but are struggling to figure out how to replicate the recipe. 

Here’s why I think MotoGP are chasing their own tails if they think they can just replicate F1 here:

You don’t have a transcendent star – Not entirely the sport’s fault, but Valentino Rossi was your mans. He’s not here any more, and you lost four years of prime Marc Marquez due to combined he and Honda incompetence. You don’t have a Lewis Hamilton. I love Fabio and Pecco, they’re great, engaging characters, but most sports fans wouldn’t recognise them if they walked past you on the street. They’re not big enough hooks to get people to sit down and watch a whole series about them. I know this because Honda and Amazon Prime have tried with Marquez and it didn’t have anywhere near the same impact. RIP MotoGP Unlimited, we hardly knew you. 

You haven’t got anyone particularly charismatic – I’m actually mildly embarrassed that Pedro Acosta has been in MotoGP for a cup of coffee and he already has more rizz than most of the paddock combined. And he’s 19. You know who the biggest winner of the DTS era has been? Daniel Ricciardo, who cemented his status as a cult hero by being the recurring star of the show, especially before Ferrari and Mercedes were involved. MotoGP has no one like that on its grid. Their athletes are even more media and PR savvy than F1 drivers are. Getting anything like that out of that paddock would be like trying to juice a slab of concrete. 

MotoGP is already more niche than F1 is – As I said earlier, most people know F1 is dudes in cars driving around in circles at a basic level, it’s just getting into the sport at a hardcore level and watching it every weekend is where DTS has done a brilliant job of bridging that gap. MotoGP is even more niche in most countries. In the UK, it’s been on £30 a month TNT Sports for the last decade and has less than 200,000 regular viewers in the country, and I know it’s similar in other places. 

Educating new audiences for two wheels is going to take even more effort. And convincing TV markets to take a chance on live sport when the line isn’t going up like it used to is going to be a tougher sell. Liberty will likely push for US coverage like they have with F1, but this isn’t 2006 anymore. The days of the strong AMA scene and talent like Nicky Hayden, Ben Bostrom and Ben Spies is gone. And a lot of US fans went with them. I fear the market isn’t there like it was for F1. 

I love that people like Jimmy Rees gave the sport some attention after Liberty’s purchase. He has 2 million TikTok followers and exactly the sort of modern day influencer that could get some new fans into the sport. But when The Race’s Simon Patterson shared it, the comments shit on it from a great height. Maybe the biggest hurdle towards the sports growth is the gatekeeping we still foster, then we act surprised when people wonder why not enough people watch. *shrug*

The end of an era in MotoGP as Lin Jarvis announced this weekend that this will be his final year with Yamaha. I was wondering if Lin was going to step down soon given he’s now 66 years young and has been fronting the team for 25 years now. In that time, he’s won eight World Championships, with three different riders, and seemingly one of his final acts as managing director was tying down Fabio Quartararo, a critical step in Yamaha’s future. If this the end, happy retirement Lin, the greatest team boss in the sport’s history. 

Marc Marquez crashed from the lead of the race after having front brake problems all weekend. To be fair, I don’t think 93 was winning this one either way given Maverick’s raw pace and clearly better tyre choice (The medium rear was the way to go here), but I think if you’re a Marquez fan, I wouldn’t be too concerned. He was the fastest Ducati out there on last year’s machinery. That’s another really positive sign the man’s competitive right now. The Sachsenring is coming. 

Interesting times with Ducati as a whole right now. For the second weekend in a row, Francesco Bagnaia is struggling to deal with rear-end chatter off his GP24 and it’s hurting him. Being an entire GP’s worth of points back on Jorge Martin early doors isn’t ideal, and the Spaniard’s been far more consistent in 2024 so far. If Bagnaia can’t lean on GP’s like he used to, we could have a fascinating fight, even more so with Enea Bastianini looking very strong too. Stronger than Bagnaia right now. 

And then there’s Pedro Acosta, who became the youngest rider in history to have back-to-back podiums. A comfortable second on the Gasgas KTM and I’ve seen enough. With Binder and Miller struggling by comparison, KTM needs to do everything in its power to build around Acosta. NOW. The kid is a phenom and he’s your best shot for long-term success going forward. For a minute, I thought we were going to get a Marquez debut win like it was 2013 again. 

Two Honda bikes saw a chequered flag this weekend. Out of eight. Two. How has Honda gotten even worse?!

Of course, Sergio Garcia won his first Moto2 race on Masters weekend. Of course. Still, that’s 6 out of the last 7 races dating back to last year won by a Speed Up chassis. Kalex for the first time in a decade, has something to think about. 

If you ever want the perfect set of circumstances for someone to break the tow in Moto3 and win via a a Grand Slam, rewatch COTA and see what happened to David Alonso out there. Sheesh.

If you haven’t seen the King of the Baggers from this weekend, watch the King of the Baggers. Thank me later. And shoutout to our old BikeLive chum James Rispoli for his podium finish in Race 2!

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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