until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Ducati decision makes its MotoGP underdog a real title threat

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

When the six MotoGP riders in attendance at the Qatar Grand Prix Thursday press conference were asked to predict the 2022 champion, there was one answer that struck this writer as particularly bold and interesting.

While Fabio Quartararo, Francesco Bagnaia and Marc Marquez named themselves (par for the course), Joan Mir named Quartararo (unwilling to name himself because he’d done so last year and then had a rough title defence) and Brad Binder went with ‘hopefully a KTM rider’ (while also putting down KTM as Moto2 and Moto3 champions, so, fair play), Maverick Vinales went with Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin.

It felt like a pretty inspired shout – and 24 hours later, with the first day of practice taken care of and the news about Ducati’s engine situation having come out, the odds of Martin having a serious say in the 2022 title race feel better than before.

When asked by The Race on Thursday whether some – including this writer – were too hasty in expecting him to be a regular, day-in-day-out frontrunner in 2022, Martin said: “I’m also feeling like this. I hope this is a good symptom.

“I feel I’m faster, I’m more experienced, I can be more constant also on the race pace so I feel like my target is to fight for the podium every race, that is the main target this season.

“Thanks for the words, and thanks for also expecting me to be on the top!”

On Friday, the Pramac man was the top Ducati in both sessions, two tenths of a second up on Jack Miller and three tenths up on Francesco Bagnaia.

It came out in the lead-up to practice that Bagnaia and Miller have reverted to a ‘hybrid’ spec of the Ducati engine rather than the newest version available. This decision, seemingly guided by Bagnaia’s preference, locks them in for the season. Meanwhile, Martin – alongside Pramac team-mate Johann Zarco and VR46 rider Luca Marini – will crack on with the specification in use in the final pre-season test in Mandalika.


“It’s what we tried during all pre-season, it’s what we’ve been working on – in Malaysia I was third, in Indonesia I was coming for first, and here I am fourth, first Ducati,” Martin said. “So for sure it wasn’t a bad decision to stay with the new engine.”

The decision, he admits, was not necessarily his – he didn’t have the chance to follow the works Ducatis’ choice of spec. “But it’s like this, I am happy, I give always my best with what I have.”

In finishing Friday in fourth, Martin was not “super happy”, admitting the rear grip deficit he had battled in the pre-season with this new engine still lingered.

“For the moment, the potential is there but we have a lot of work in acceleration that we are working on the electronics.

“I have the confidence on Ducati to make this engine work. For sure we need two-three races but afterwards we will be stronger than last year.”

“Stronger than last year” would be quite strong indeed. And while Martin remains a satellite rider and thus is unlikely to command as much of Ducati’s attention as the factory duo, perhaps diverging from Bagnaia and Miller in terms of spec could actually prove something of a handy difference-maker, should their ‘hybrid’ choice backfire in the longer run?

Asked by The Race whether he felt the potential of his engine was higher than what the factory bikes reverted to, Martin said: “I don’t know exactly what the factory team have, I cannot tell you what’s the difference – I just know what I have, and I feel the potential is great.

“I am first Ducati, this is the main thing. I hope it’s like this the whole season!”

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