Dre’s Race Review: MotoGP’s 2024 Portuguese Grand Prix

Jorge Martin takes the early Championship lead as Bagnaia and Marquez take each other out of the equation. Dre on MotoGP hitting Portugal.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 6 mins

“The future is now, old men.”

Hi gang, time for me to take a review of Round 2 of the MotoGP World Championship as the travelling circus heads for a brief stop in Europe and specifically, Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix. During it, we had a return of Jorge Martin’s excellence at the front of the field as he would lead from lights to flag, Maverick Vinales had another rollercoaster weekend, Pedro Acosta went one step beyond and cracked the podium, and we had the first skirmish in the long-awaited Bagnaia vs Marquez rivalry. Let’s get into it.

This was the Jorge Martin we’ve always wanted in MotoGP. A disciplined, measured, controlled drive from the front from lights to flag. Every time Maverick Vinales would close in, he’d dictate the pace and it never truly felt like he was under serious pressure to lose the lead of the race. A part of me just wishes he did that more often and we wouldn’t have as many concerns about his temperament or form. 

And it’s funny how this has all turned out. It says a lot that the two men in the centre of Ducati’s future rider reshuffle finished first and second here huh?

It now seems more and more nailed on that this will be Martin’s final season with Pramac no matter what. Martin has made it abundantly clear, he wants that factory Ducati seat, the general belief being that you can’t win the title on a customer bike. Ducati for the first time openly admitted that they want to keep Martin if they can help it… but where does leave Enea Bastianini? The man is proving that he’s back to something near his best after an excellent, trouble-free second place and showing great pace. He’s also a free agent at the end of the year, and Ducati may have to choose directly between them. 

Pramac behind them, also on the factory bikes are in a pickle. Fermin Aldeguer, the Moto2 hotshot was confirmed this week to have signed a two-year factory contract with Ducati last week, with an option for another two years on top. Turns out that the agreement wasn’t written in pencil in Qatar, it was done with permanent marker back in January before the season even started. And the word on the street is, he’s going to Pramac. Meaning it could be the decks being cleared within the team entirely. If Ducati has to reshuffle given Martin’s unwillingness to compromise, a Bastianini/Aldeguer Pramac team is still pretty tasty to me. 

And I’m not even fully taking into account two other possibilities – What about Bezzecchi? And does Ducati’s factory just take Marc Marquez if the option is there, the “enemy of my enemy” is my friend kinda vibes? Ducati has a lot of rearranging it needs to do for 2025, and their silly seasons tend to start way earlier than F1’s. Ducati already has 4 of the best 6 riders in the world now, and they’re adding another potentially extremely exciting in Aldeguer coming soon. It’s like building a new conservatory on the Death Star. Start thinking about this now, because it will become important later.

We were all waiting for this moment to happen, and we got it earlier than anticipated. This weekend, Francesco Bagnaia didn’t have all the answers. He choked the Sprint after having a big tank slapper down the hill into Turn 1 and dropping him to fourth. Then in the Grand Prix, he was under constant pressure from Pedro Acosta’s KTM and eventually succumbed in the back half of the race after trying one last-ditch effort to drop him. That opened the door for Marc Marquez to attack, and he dropped the hammer with a big lunge at Turn 5. Marquez ran slightly wide, opening the door for Bagnaia to try a cutback… they clash, and both men go down. Bagnaia parks the bike in the garage, and Marquez rejoins in 16th. 

Both men accepted it was a racing incident, and the stewards agreed, but they were also very quick to blame the other for the clash. Marquez using telemetry as an argument was straight out of the page of his old hero, Valentino. Someone really should ought to write a book about that…

Anyway, what do I think? I also think it was a racing incident. Marquez took a risky lunge and ran slightly wide. Bagnaia tried the cutback and was committed to it, Marquez was committed to trying to get back on the racing line after his mistake, and neither man wanted to back down with just a couple of laps left. Both men could have done more to avoid the contact and didn’t. Maybe you give a bit more accountability to Bagnaia for engaging the cutback in the first place and taking on the extra risk, but I don’t think any of this warranted penalties and the stewards ultimately got it right.

I wonder how much of this falls on the very nature of racing in 2024 now, where hellacious levels of risk have to be taken to even attempt a pass with the aero these bikes now generate. But in any case, we got the first skirmish between arguably the world’s two best bike riders. Bagnaia is not as impervious as we first thought, and Marquez, after finishing second in the Sprint with him nailing that same Turn 5 move on Jorge Martin, is quicker than expected. This is going to come up again, I promise. 

Oh lord. Acosta’s getting the hang of this. And quickly too. In Qatar, he was caught out at how quickly the tyre wear kicked in. Portimao didn’t present those problems, so he had a full license to go for it. And he rode like he’d been doing this for five seasons already. He got past Marquez again and this time he made it stick long-term. Then he stuck behind Pecco Bagnaia for half the race, waiting for his opportunity to strike and when Bagania got a poor run at the final corner, Acosta finally passed him and made it stick. 

How many times has Bagnaia been rattled, thrown off his rhythm? And by a 19-year-old teenager no less? Insanely impressive, and while 3rd might have been slightly overblown by the surprisingly high rate of attrition at the front, he did beat Brad Binder and Jack Miller on the factory equipment.

When multiple-time MotoGP race winner Jack Miller says: “I wish I could ride like that”, it says it all. You’d think it was Binder with the shapes he was pulling!

The last time a teenager got on a Premier Class podium was the legendary Randy Mamola back in 1979. Acosta’s the third youngest to ever get there, and the youngest of all time to podium in all three major classes. The way he’s going he could be winning the odd race here and there before the year is done. He has a lot of Dukes to navigate, but Acosta’s passed every test bike racing has ever thrown him. I fear this may be no different. 

A brilliant but somewhat ruined weekend for Maverick Vinales and through no fault of his own. Depending on how you class Sprints in the stat sheet, but if you think it’s a race, it means Top Gun became the first rider in top-flight history to win with three different manufacturers. A damn shame his gearbox exploded right at the end of the Grand Prix itself after sixth gear failed on the home straight. Yet another Aprilia technical retirement is brutal and we should now be expecting better from a team wanting to compete for wins. 

Honda has had a carbon copy of last year, thinking they’d taken a step forward in Qatar, but getting to Portimao and everything has gone to shit. Qualifying in P19-22, and then Joan Mir only managed 12th in the race. They can’t even claim the Japanese Cup because Fabio Quartararo put in a shift to take seventh. And then Yamaha couldn’t manage more than 6 laps in testing a day later. Brutal.

Delighted for Aron Canet. After 70 career Moto2 starts, 15-second place finishes and five more thirds, he finally got his first win in the class, comfortably beating Joe Roberts to second after race favourite Fermin Aldeguer had to come back after jumping the start and getting two long lap penalties for his trouble. Canet is one of the good dudes in bike racing and by his own words, typecast over his body of tattoos wrongly putting off sponsors. Hope he can build this into a title campaign, I think he can do this at the MotoGP level if the right chance lands his way. He’s still only 24!  (He says after gushing about Acosta being a teenager earlier)

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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