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

Francesco Bagnaia silences the hype train, but Pedro Acosta has Motorsport’s most impressive debut of the last 24 Hours. Dre on a busy MotoGP opener in Qatar.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 8 mins

“The more things change…”

Welcome back to DRR: MotoGP Edition! After an off-season that was filled with getting used to Marc Marquez being on a blue Ducati, and pondering whether Pedro Acosta is him (That’s foreshadowing, folks), the 2024 season finally got underway in Qatar and… things pretty much stayed where they were for the most part. Who said F1’s the only predictable series around here? *ba-dum-tiss*!

But on a serious note, we did get a lot of illumination (besides the fancy paddock upgrades), as to where everyone’s at now we’ve had a full race in anger for the first time in 2024. So, here are all the things I learned while watching MotoGP in Qatar. I’d have put this in the title, but you mistake me for someone who gives a shit about SEO.

Francesco Bagnaia – Still Him: We weren’t paying full attention to him during the off-season because we were likely so enamoured with Marc Marquez, but one pattern rang true. Francesco Bagnaia was the quickest man in testing and would be going in as the title favourite, despite punters backing MM93 into as much as an even money favourite at Christmas. 

Nope. Pecco’s still him. And he did it the same way I mentioned last year with how he’s adapted to the new weekend format. He used the Sprint to learn how the tyres were coping over an intense, half-distance race, realised he went too far as he faded and finished off the podium in the Sprint, to come back and dominate the Grand Prix. Pecco took the lead on Lap 1, and never really looked back, the gap hovering around a second for the whole race. He was the fastest man, in open air, and had complete control. You can’t give Pecco that kind of liberty, he will run you over.

Jorge Martin needs more than Sprints: And as said, the same old pattern happened. Jorge Martin hit an astonishing 1:50.7 in Qualifying, the fastest ever lap of Qatar to take pole position and won the Sprint comfortably, but didn’t have the ultimate pace over a full race distance to beat Bagnaia. Martin has ridiculous raw speed, more than anyone in the sport at the absolute limit, but last year proved he cannot win the title on Sprints alone. He needs to be in Bagnaia’s grill and taking the big points off him. 

Marc Marquez is going to be fine: So for all the hype… Marc’s first weekend was very good. If anything, the ant has tried to play down his strengths at every opportunity. He’s still not 100% on his right arm, and he’s still learning what to do with a bike that makes all its lap time on corner exit rather than entry due to all that rear grip he never had on a Honda. 

Sixth in Qualifying (And had 3 red splits on his final flyer), as well as 5th in the Sprint and 4th in the GP, are really promising signs. Marquez was a little over the limit in the Sprint, but managed his tyres well in the race, and largely stayed with the leading group. If you’re keeping Jorge Martin honest the first time of asking, and you’re the fastest man on a GP23, you’re in good shape.

I think people were always overegging the pudding a little bit assuming Marc would just run the field over (Not helped by many prominent people in biking like Cal Crutchlow and Martin himself were VERY positive, almost too much), but I’m very much sure he’ll win races in the not-too-distant future. He’s already competitive, that’s huge. I do wonder if the GP24 is so far ahead a title challenge may not be possible though…

Pedro Acosta is special: Okay, I’ve seen enough. Pedro Acosta is something special. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch him from his famous pitlane win in Moto3 in Qatar as a rookie, and there was always a rumbling that he was always going to make it. But to be at one point running for the podium on a customer KTM on DEBUT is shades of Marc Marquez himself. 

Yeah, he goosed himself on his tyres and slipped down towards the second group, but you can’t blame the rookie for a bit of youthful exuberance on debut. Shit, maybe the virginity metaphor he laid out was accurate. The fact he has enough raw pace to give Brad Binder a headache is astonishing. This kid is the future. And as NBA Legend Charles Barkley once said: “Just wait until he actually learns how to play the game.”

Japan still stinks: You ever feel guilty for laughing at something? Is it bad that I chuckled when Joan Mir said upon finishing thirteenth: “We even led the Japanese Cup?”. 😭 That is the joke of a man who knows he’s in a Submarine powered by a Logitech controller. 

Fabio Quartararo had it worse, saying the bike had no rear grip whatsoever and that the difference in performance compared to their rivals is “worse than ever”. The Yamaha’s core strength, its apex speed in medium and fast corners, is now their biggest weakness and they’re even losing ground there. Yamaha’s put itself in a pickle where Fabio doesn’t know how to improve his bike but they have to listen to him or else they may lose him. A clean break might be best for all parties. Man, where have I heard that before?

The sport can still be very unserious: At the eleventh hour, the sport and FIM agreed on a new policy on tyre pressure regulations. They raised the threshold to 1.88 bar instead of 1.8, in exchange for the bikes being compliant for 60% of the race rather than 50. Also, the instant DQ was taken off the table, with a flat eight-second time penalty for going over the limit in the Sprint, and 16 seconds for the Grand Prix.

It’s enough that while it won’t be a DQ, you’re likely not scoring points if you break the limit. If the riders are down with it, which they are, then I am too. Anything to avoid these bikes lining up with tyres that are failing an MOT. But why did it take until hours before the weekend officially started for that to be finally hammered home? 

Moto2 doesn’t often get a standalone piece here on M101, but it felt worthy of the time this week for a superb race. This is partly my fault because, in my season preview, I forgot a very important element of the field changing that I should have mentioned – Pirelli tyres are now on the bikes instead of Dunlops. And it’s taken one race to see it’s made a big difference to how a Moto2 has been handled.

Drop off! Actual tyre drop-off and management are now key aspects of the race! It was fascinating and I loved it. It was like watching an F1 race in the V8 era where you could hit the “cliff” and pay the price if you got it wrong and pushed too hard. Take poor old Aron Canet. The polesitter and the man who’s had 20 Moto2 podium finishes without a win, and was the favourite for the race. He was in the 1:57s early on after a poor start to try and get back to the front but took too much out of his Pirelli’s, and by the end, he was doing 2:01s while the frontrunners were in the 1:59s. 

You could see the form of riders swing on a dime in real time as the race was happening. Canet’s recovery and then decline, Manuel Gonzales leading but then also fading late on, as Sergio Garcia got into the leading group late on. And of course the headlining fight between Alonso Lopez and… Barry Baltus?!

Barry Baltus is a fascinating lad. Named after the late Barry Sheene and born in Namur, Belgium, Motocross land. He’s one half of a huge RW Racing reboot, switching to Kalex chassis and taking a big ol’ punt on young talent – him, and Zonta van den Goorbergh, who are a combined age of 38. We’ve joked about Baltus in our Discord server as being a bit off the boil in Moto2, and this was his 50th start in the class. But he shined in Qatar, trying everything he could to beat Alonso Lopez for the win. But to Lopez’s credit, he didn’t give Baltus an inch with perfect defensive riding on those final laps. 

This was a wonderful Moto2 race. It was a race that told a genuine story and it was a race that’s completely reset what Moto2 is set to be as a class. You are now going to have to learn how to manage your tyres, or you’re a dead man walking. And don’t look now, but that was the 5th straight win for a rider on a Boscoscuro chassis. The last time Kalex went five straight without a win was when Marc Marquez was riding a Suter. In 2012! 

Boscoscuro chassis’ ended up 1st, 3rd (Sergio Garcia), 4th (Ai Ogura) and… 16th?! Fermin Aldeguer was nowhere to be seen. His season may ultimately not matter given the rumours he’s already signed a 2025 deal with Pramac but we all know how easily agreements are torn up in this sport. Tony Arbolino, my pick for the title, was also bullied in the midfield and ended up 20th. 

This is a new Moto2. And I can’t wait to see how it shakes out over the full season. 

Pedro Acosta stuns everyone by being as good as advertised in a weekend where the only big-name crasher was Jack Miller. Oof. 

Missing: Marco Bezzecchi. If found, return to Buddh International Circuit in India. I know we gushed over him on M101 last year but I do wonder if he’s already garnering the reputation of being a bit of a “Goldilocks” rider. If Bez wants to be a contender again, he can’t afford weekends like this one where he’s completely off the pace. 

There’s only one “Magic Alonso”, F1 Twitter. And it’s David in Moto3. That final lap where he passed five bikes for the win was astonishing. Man just turned up the dial and carved through the field, including some strong riders like Adrian Fernandez and Taiyo Furusato. Mind you, Dani Holgado had his pants pulled down at the final corner and really ought to have defended that apex. That was a mugging and why Alonso’s the title favourite in Moto3 this year. 

Best wishes to Jake Dixon who suffered fluid in the lungs after a nasty highside in practise. Thankfully, he’s already out of hospital so some rest should just do the trick. Inevitably we’ll see him as well as TNT’s plugs for his docuseries in full in Portimao.

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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