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

Bagnaia cements his title push with a brilliant win over a resurgent Marc Marquez. Dre on a classic Spanish Grand Prix.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 6 mins

“Super Saiyan 2 Goku vs Majin Vegeta.”

Remember when Francesco Bagnaia last had a proper scrap for the win? I think you’d have to go back to Aragon in 2021 when Honda was amid its decline and Bagnaia was just starting to realise his full potential as a bike rider. 

A lot has changed since then. Honda’s gotten worse and Marc Marquez felt like he had to escape to win again, and Francesco Bagnaia has become the best rider in the world, overcome massive deficits and becoming one of the best all-around tacticians we’ve seen in MotoGP, alongside breakneck race pace. This was always going to be the dream rematch, nearly three years in the making.

Did it deliver? Of course, it did. Let’s get into an absolute thriller of a Spanish GP weekend. 

…But first, we have to talk about the Sprint because man alive, it was chaos. It rained early on Saturday morning, affecting the junior classes running, but it was largely dry by the time we got to the Sprint race. But Jerez is an older race track, and with the older tarmac being rather porous, it meant as the water was being evaporated it was settling on the track surface even in the dry. As a result, it led to damp patches on the track the riders had to avoid.

Now, this wasn’t so bad in the first half of the Sprint, but as riders took more risks and drifted further off the racing line, all hell broke loose. Marc Marquez, leading the Sprint, was one of five crashes in 60 seconds, with a synchronised triple axel at Turn 5 from Brad Binder, Alex Marquez and Enea Bastianini. The final corner also claimed multiple victims like Johann Zarco. In all, there were 15 crashes in just 12 laps of racing, and Jorge Martin narrowly avoided tipping the front himself to claim a victory over Pedro Acosta and Fabio Quartararo, Dani Pedrosa?

Oh yeah, because of all those heated battles and close-quarters racing, five riders broke the tyre pressure regulations and picked up 8-second time penalties, the majority of which riders had crashed already, but Fabio was one of them after gaining 20 places to finish 3rd on the road, but demoted to 5th after the penalty. Raul Fernandez had a Top 6 finish drop him to 13th too. I suspect special legislation probably needs to be in place for riders who have rejoined after a crash, but that opens up a whole other can of worms… should we be encouraging crashed riders to rejoin?

The wildest part of all this? We got different damp patches with the sun out on Sunday afternoon, and EIGHT Moto2 riders crashed at the final Lorenzo corner, including Big Bo Bendsneyder breaking a collarbone. Nasty stuff, but that’s what happens when you’re dealing with more historic venues. Right, the main event…

Oh yeah. This was special. I said during 2023, that sometimes it must feel a bit annoying to be a Pecco Bagnaia fan. He’s always had a tinge of doubt and questions asked about just how good he is. Some of it is hating. Some of it is valid. The nature of his rise to dominance as Ducati take over the front. The lack of a Marc Marquez to challenge him as Japan falters in the aero era of the sport. The mistakes as he’s let others take the fight to him in both World Championship campaigns. But when Pecco is on it, he is virtually unstoppable. And this for me, was his greatest performance yet. 

He had an outstanding start to get up to fourth from the holeshot but then laid down an astonishing double pass around the outside of Pedrosa’s corner. To do that, on a full tank and cold tyres and on Lap 1, to slot into second behind Marquez almost perfectly was absolutely astonishing. One of the best overtakes I’ve ever seen in MotoGP and it set him perfectly to follow Jorge Martin as we got to the business end of the race.

Jorge Martin overcooked his brakes and crashed into Pedrosa’s corner in the middle of running, but Marquez took down a 1.2-second deficit to close in on Bagnaia. We then had a brilliant tactical fight. Both men with different strengths, Bagania being excellent in Sector 4 and protecting the easier passing spots like Lorenzo and Pedrosa’s corner. But Marquez was money in Sector 3, trying to pass into the amphitheatre at Turn 10 using Aspar Corner as a setup. We had tyre-on-elbow violence, but thankfully nothing more. 

Marquez broke the race lap record in pursuit, but with three to go Bagnaia pulled out a ridiculous 1:37.4, two tenths quicker than Marquez (who had matched his own record), and it bought him just enough time to avoid a proper final lap Marquez assault. A 37.4 on 23-lap old tyres is bonkers. I’d argue Marc was the faster man, but the thinking man’s rider crossed the line first. 

From both men, it was a masterful performance. It’s easy to forget, for Marquez, this is just his fourth race on an unfamiliar bike (last year’s at that), with a right arm he still doesn’t fully trust on the faster right-handers, and he lost against the reigning World Champion by less than four-tenths of a second. And Bagnaia’s won in Jerez for three years running now. Bagania had to be perfect to make sure he won this race and this one. He did.

 For Bagnaia, this was a legacy-cementing performance. He’s defeated the best Marc Marquez we’ve seen in half a decade with an inch-perfect race. And for Marquez, it’s reassurances four years to the month he broke his arm and altered his incredible career forever, that he’s back at the very highest level. The first win is coming and it will be a glorious moment for the sport when it lands. 

And as cliched as it is to say, the sport won today. Jerez just delivered back-to-back classics with the new ownership waiting in the wings. 2024 is shaping up to be a hell of a season.

Brilliant to see Marco Bezzecchi back on the podium after a lot of complaints about his GP23 not getting along with him as he’s struggled to deal with the engine braking on the bike. No shame in finishing three seconds behind those two on the day and I hope it kickstarts his season. And extra points for his “Code Breaker” on Pecco Bagnaia in Parc Ferme. 

Not naming names on the broadcaster here, but can we please stop spinning up this arch-rival nonsense? Valentino Rossi isn’t walking through that door anymore as the instigator-in-chief. Marquez has only ever had one arch rival and we all know the Italian side of the fence was the one doing the instigating. Marquez and Bagnaia embraced and smiled after their excellent fight, and were giggling during the press conference. It’s not 2005 anymore, we don’t have to pretend these guys hate each other to trick the plebs into watching. It’s a different sport now and I’d argue for the better. 

Nearly 300,000 in for the weekend. 145,000 on Race Day, and a Sprint podium with the home fans screaming “PEDRO”. Safe to say the sport’s got its home mojo back. Shame Pedro could only manage 10th in the race, he got his bell run with that nasty warm-up clash and contact with Zarco on the opening lap.

Speaking of which, Zarco got kicked out of Race Control after saying head steward Freddie Spencer treated him and Aleix Espargaro as children after a clash between them at Turn 5 in the middle of the race. With seemingly no decision made on a blatant Espargaro turn-in, I can understand the Frenchman’s frustration.

Where the heck was Aprilia this weekend? The best one on the day was Miguel Oliveira’s Trackhouse in eighth. 

Speaking of Trackhouse, don’t look now but Moto2 is getting interesting. After finishing second to Fermin Aldeguer, Joe Roberts now leads the championship. It’s the first time any American has led any of the three major classes since Nicky Hayden’s magical 2006. And he did it scoring his 69th point. I miss you Nicky, so much. 

It sucks for David Alonso to be the first man into the Turn 13 damp patch in Moto3 and crash—a heck of a recovery to get back to 11th mind you. After 9 crashes on the final corner this weekend across the classes, I think we’ve found a sequel to F1 Germany 2019’s “Corner of poor judgement”. 

One more note: There are now 33 points covering Championship leader Jorge Martin, all the way down to seventh-placed Brad Binder. Bagania, Marquez, Acosta and Bastianini are all in there. The serious business hasn’t even started yet…

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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