Qatar GP MotoGP: Ducati and Pecco Bagnaia look askance at Marc Márquez | Motorcycling | Sports

This weekend the MotoGP season opens under the lights of the Qatar GP, and in Lusail everyone agrees on one thing: Ducati will once again be the bike to beat in 2024. During the preseason they have shown that they are still ahead of the rest, and also present in their ranks an army of eight winning pilots in the premier category. One in particular, throughout the winter, has animated all the gatherings. At this point, there is no one left inside or outside the paddock without speaking out about the unknown that Marc Márquez represents. Most expect great things from him now that he has climbed onto the pace machine on the grid, and many see him fighting for the title. There are also voices, however, that doubt how far the eight-time world champion can go this year. The first, yours.

“I know that expectations are very high, but I also know what I have been through these last four years. I know where I come from and where I want to go, and I know the tempos,” explains the Catalan, who at 31 years old displays his most cerebral and restrained version in front of the media. “My intention is not to come here and try to win right away, that would be a big mistake. In the last two years I have not been able to achieve it,” he recalls. His first mission, he says, is to learn from the three drivers who he sees a step ahead, starting with the two-time world champion, the Italian Pecco Bagnaia, and his great rival for the title in 2023, the Madrid native Jorge Martín. He also includes among his references Enea Bastianini, who in 2022 won the Gresini team’s first MotoGP race, where he is now the one racing, in similar conditions – with the best bike from the previous year – and under the same scenario, the night GP which started the season in the Qatari desert.

Bagnaia, the number one in the championship, who has had the best preseason of his life and has just renewed his relationship with the Bologna brand for another two years, looks askance at the evolution of the new member of the powerful Italian lineup. The 27-year-old from Turin avoids commenting on the Cervera driver, unless asked directly, and still considers it premature to talk about who will be fighting for the championship this year. “Any of the Ducati has the potential to achieve this, and Aprilia and KTM have also shown themselves to be very competitive in the tests,” he says without going into the details. His teammate with his official colors, Bastianini, who has been strong this winter, does comment on the driver that everyone is talking about: “I see Marc well. He is a tough rival, and he will be in the game. I don’t know if he will win the title, but he will fight for the podium in the championship.”

The main focus of dissent to combat the Ducati red tide remains in the hands of the other European factories. Aprilia and KTM have taken another step forward this winter to try to win, at least, the hyper-technological spiral into which the competition has fallen. Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales have even lost kilos and admit to being somewhat hungry to improve the durability of the tires. “It compensates me. What I am clear about is what two or three kilos of extra weight affects acceleration,” says the driver from Granollers, the oldest on the grid at 34 years old. The Austrians, in addition to already implementing the most advanced version of their carbon chassis, add to their cocktail of riders the 19-year-old prodigy from Murcia Pedro Acosta, who in 30 months has gone from debuting in Moto3 to joining MotoGP as two-time champion of the two shuttle categories. Little is expected from the Japanese, the almighty Honda and Yamaha, despite a notable effort to adapt more quickly to the new times.

Among its many peculiarities, the season will take place on the track in the 21 scheduled grand prix (with 42 scoring races) after the cancellation of the Argentine GP, but also in the offices. Only four riders start the course knowing where they will race next year (Bagnaia in Ducati, Binder in KTM and Zarco and Marini in Honda) and 18 will have to fight to keep their seat or get a new one when the main contractual chips in a market fall. that gets animated sooner and sooner. Fermín Aldeguer, another of the great talents of Spanish motorcycling, has already signed an agreement with Ducati for his promotion from Moto2 in 2025, which already removes one of those free spots without even having started the course.

Among those who will present their candidacy, although it may seem surprising given his stature, will also be Marc Márquez. What doors are opened to the great reference of two wheels in the last decade will depend on his performance with Team Gresini’s GP23. “This year we will see if my decline has begun,” he says before starting filming this Friday. MotoGP promises plenty of excitement.

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