until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Ducati's big 2024 claim is sole Marquez question mark

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Because Ducati had eight full-time riders on the MotoGP grid this year and none of its main rivals had more than four, it's an interesting exercise to see what the championship would look like if the factory-spec bikes and the older bikes were treated as two separate manufacturers.

Ultimately, the newer GP23s in the hands of the factory team and Pramac did come out on top more often than not, but even the year-old GP22s campaigned by VR46 and Gresini were better than the best stuff other manufacturers had come up with.

Alternative 2023 manufacturers' championship

1. Ducati GP23 - 657

2. Ducati GP22 - 462

3. KTM - 373

4. Aprilia - 236

5. Yamaha - 196

6. Honda - 185

It is, of course, yet another reason for Ducati tech genius Gigi Dall'Igna to be walking around with a big-time smirk 24/7 - something it probably takes great restraint not to do.

Gigi Dall'Igna, Ducati, MotoGP

But it is also a key reason for why there is so much buzz over Marc Marquez getting an older-spec Ducati - because it is accepted almost without question that a rider of that calibre can fight for the championship on one, after back-to-back seasons in which sophomore rider Enea Bastianini and sophomore rider Marco Bezzecchi both featured on the outside of the title battle.

A big part of that, too, is that while you would normally expect the older bike to become markedly less competitive as in-season development creates inevitable strides, that isn't really what happened with the GP22 this year.

"I think the '22 bikes were a problem at the start, but from that moment we managed to improve everything, and finally in the last part of the championship was fantastic," said champion Pecco Bagnaia of this year's GP23 v. GP22 dynamic. But the year-old Ducatis were still unquestionably legit in those final rounds.

Fabio Di Giannantonio and Pecco Bagnaia, MotoGP

Alex Marquez was probably the quickest rider at Sepang. Team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio was the quickest rider in Qatar. And, had his qualifying not gone awry, Di Giannantonio would've probably made a decent case for being the fastest rider in Valencia, too.

Crucially, though, this dynamic is not one that Dall'Igna expects to hold up in 2024 as well.

"The problem is that we don't have a lot of tests during the winter to set up all the new parts that we would like to introduce," said Dall'Igna. "So, we did a mistake at the beginning of '22, because we tried to put too many developments on the bike.

"We learned from that lesson and we don't want to put too many evolutions on the bike.

"[But] this year, we will do something more. I think that for the next season the difference between the factory bikes and the previous year's bike will be a little bit higher. But we will see."

Bagnaia, who focused entirely on the GP24 prototype engine in the Valencia test, did say that he felt it was "the same step" as the previous year, and a much smaller change than from 2021 to 2022 - which had created that very scuffed start to what would ultimately end up his first MotoGP championship-winning season.

And yet, elsewhere the Italian's feedback was quite bullish.

Pecco Bagnaia, Ducati, MotoGP

"I think engineers and technicians of Ducati can be satisfied with their work. Because many things are already the same [level as the GP23], and this is a really good way to start, and for other things it's already better," he claimed.

"I think it's good, it's a good way to start. But Valencia is not the best circuit to try different things, for many things [reasons], also for the condition today it was a disaster for the wind. But we managed to try everything and session by session I was feeling better and better."

Bagnaia said that the GP23 engine had been something of an over-correction in terms of power delivery - after the attempted '22 engine was too aggressive, this one was "too smooth". "I prefer a more connected bike on the acceleration."

And the GP24 may well be that. "You feel the power," Bagnaia smirked.

Pecco Bagnaia, Ducati, MotoGP

He felt also that the new bike was already addressing his biggest complaint with the GP23, corner entry.

"The good thing about the old bike [GP22] was the entrance of the corners," he explained. "You could keep a lot of speed, and it was helping a lot to have more turning.

"Last year's bike was very good on traction, very good on the braking, the first part of braking, but I was losing a lot on the entrance, for the movement, for the fact that I had more grip so it was turning less.

"And I think that the '24 is more similar [to the GP22]."

Bagnaia believes this will help both him and team-mate Enea Bastianini, who really struggled to get his head around the GP23 this year but did feel a tentative improvement in the Tuesday test. "The first impact with the '24 bike was better from the start," Bastianini summarised. "Not a big difference compared to the '23 bike but better."

For Bastianini, the first question is simply whether the GP24 returns him to regular frontrunner status. The same sort of question exists for new Pramac recruit Franco Morbidelli.

But for Bagnaia and title rival Jorge Martin, it is a matter of domination.

Marc Marquez, Gresini Ducati, MotoGP

A season with Marquez on a Ducati will not be a comfortable one for anyone else on the grid.

And if Marquez's rapid adaptation to the Desmosedici in Valencia is anything to go by, both Bagnaia and Martin should surely hope that Dall'Igna is correct in his assessment of how the two kinds of Ducatis on next year's grid will stack up.

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