until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

Martin needed to lose the MotoGP title fight

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

For a while, it looked like the 2023 MotoGP world championship would tip in favour of satellite Ducati rider Jorge Martin after a late-season run of form put him tight into contention with reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia.

But while Martin might not have been able to get the title over the line, it could well be that his falling at the last hurdle is the final step he needed in order to become a mainstay of MotoGP championship contests for years and years to come.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Ducati, MotoGP

Coming into 2023, it was abundantly clear that Martin had the pace to at the very least fight for race wins on a regular basis, even if his actual season got off to a rocky start thanks to a Marc Marquez torpedo attack at the opening round - that left Martin with a broken bone on his foot and a (somewhat mitigated) points disadvantage to early frontrunners Bagnaia and Marco Bezzecchi.

However, he soon turned that around with multiple grand prix wins and an incredible sprint race record - and ended the season close (but not quite close enough) behind fellow Ducati racer Bagnaia.

The reasons that he came up short, though, are also why it’s perhaps best to count 2023 not as the year for him to finally taste championship success, but rather to complete his learning curve and go into the next season a far more complete contender.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Ducati, MotoGP

While his searing pace might have helped play a part in closing down Bagnaia’s championship lead, it’s Martin’s failings that will define his season in the history books - the mistakes that he made along the way that ultimately swung things back in favour of his Italian rival.

First of those, of course, were the crashes that Marquez wasn’t to blame for.

Two of his four Sunday DNFs came during the head-to-head championship run-in as he crashed out of a runaway lead in Indonesia and then, rattled by an escaping Bagnaia, fell at the final race of the year in Valencia and got a little inadvertent 'revenge' for Portimao by taking Marquez with him.

But it's not a huge DNF rate, certainly not for a rider who has in the past sometimes flirted with the fine line between outrageously fast and over the limit, and it’s perhaps the one area where he’s got the least learning to do for next season.

Of course, Valencia arguably showed something more than that, though - less uncontrolled speed or a loss of concentration like in Lombok and more a case of losing his temper and trying to force his way through a gap that wasn’t there.

Marc Marquez and Jorge Martin crash, MotoGP

That needs to be better-controlled, but with Martin already one of the most aggressive racers on the current MotoGP grid he’s got room to dial it down a little while very much retaining that edge.

The mistake that might stand out the most in his season, though, is no crash but his decision to use Michelin’s medium tyre in Saturday’s rescheduled main race at Phillip Island - an act of going-against-the-convention defiance that backfired on him on the very last lap of the race.

Forced to watch on as not just Bagnaia but four others piled past him, it was proof that Martin can still improve his in-weekend processes.

Australian GP, MotoGP, Phillip Island

In the races that followed, there's no questioning that he tried to make amends, with his intention to conserve tyres and ride more like Bagnaia when he got to the front of races apparent. Maybe too little too late, but at least the realisation that another lesson needed to be learned for the future.

And in that, really, lies the reality of why Jorge Martin needed the harsh lessons of 2023 to be stronger in the future.

He’s undoubtedly fast, regularly faster than Bagnaia - but whether he was faster in the grand scheme of things or not in 2023, he wasn’t better. And that's what counted.

With defeat, therefore, hopefully comes a little humility for someone who tends to have one of the bigger egos in MotoGP - and in turn, this humility should only mean more and more successes down the road.

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