until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Marquez destroying rivals on the same bike - what's happened to them?

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

When Marc Marquez began his journey as a Ducati rider, the understanding was that when it came to his knowledge of the Desmosedici he wouldn't just have to play catch-up to the likes of 2023 title race protagonists Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin - but also the formidable array of riders who would have the same spec of bike as Marquez this season.

Marco Bezzecchi had been a frontrunning force through the 2023 campaign. Alex Marquez and Fabio Di Giannantonio both flashed amazing speed late in the year. While Marc - joining Alex at Gresini - would hope to take aim at the cream of the crop on shiny new Ducati GP24s, the same ambitions would be harboured by his three fellow GP23 riders.

And certainly the pre-season suggested that, while Bezzecchi was having trouble adapting to the 2023 Ducati, his VR46 team-mate Di Giannantonio and the younger Marquez should be right there right away at the sharp end with Marc, perhaps even a step ahead of Gresini Ducati's star hire.

Yet here we are two rounds and four races into the season, and that intra-GP23 battle hasn't materialised. Marc Marquez isn't having the easiest time of it fighting against the 2024 Ducatis, yes, but the other older Ducatis have absolutely nothing on him so far.

Race laps spent as the lead GP23 rider

Marc Marquez - 66
Marco Bezzecchi - 3
Alex Marquez - 0
Fabio Di Giannantonio - 0

Even those three outlier laps above are 'fake', really, representing the conclusion to the Portuguese Grand Prix after the elder Marquez had collided with Bagnaia.

So what has happened? Why is it that only one year-old Desmosedici is taking the fight to the current bikes so far? Why is it the one ridden by a rider who is still relatively unfamiliar with the Ducati?

Bezzecchi's travails

Of the three non-Marc GP23 riders in question, Bezzecchi has been the one on the most encouraging trajectory. Then again, he was also the one who had started the season furthest back relative to expectations.

Through the pre-season and in the Qatar opener, Bezzecchi had been at loggerheads with the 2023 bike, and specifically the way it has been asking him to ride it relative to the GP22 bike he had last year.

The character of that GP23 engine, he said, was really affecting the way he was entering the corners and his confidence in the front tyre. And he hasn't shied away from comparing it to what Enea Bastianini had undergone last year as part of his brutal third season in MotoGP.

Bezzecchi, now in his own third season, said at Portimao: "I am still trying to change, because it's not automatic, still, for me to ride in this way.

"Last year I was really strong to bring the bike in with a lot of pressure on the brake.

"This bike works in the opposite way. So, it has to stop really good [while] straight. Then you have to release the brake to make the bike turn.

"When you keep the brake [on], the bike is turning less compared to last year.

"For me still, it's not really natural to go in and release the brake. My instinct tells me to keep the brakes."

For Bastianini, it never really came together with the GP23. Arguably, through injuries, he never really got a proper chance with it.

Bezzecchi, meanwhile, does seem to be making strides already. At Portimao, he pointed to an unspecified tweak of the bike as having perhaps unlocked the required riding style for him, making it easier to rebuff his instinct.

"But I'm still missing the entry part, and especially the turning point mid-corner," he admitted after the grand prix. "I'm slower compared to the other riders in that area.

"Overall, compared to Sepang and Doha we improved a lot, but still we are a bit too far from the top guys."

It also isn't helping that he still isn't starting well enough, or at least with any kind of consistency. By his own admission, Bezzecchi was never the best at starts - but has particularly struggled with the Ducati clutch in MotoGP.

That was already too much to overcome even when he was on song with the bike last year. Right now, combined with a lingering unease with the GP23, it represents an impossible hurdle.

Di Giannantonio's false start

Bezzecchi had acknowledged through the pre-season that new VR46 team-mate Di Giannantonio was coping better with the switch from GP22 to GP23.

But this hasn't translated to a meaningful difference in results yet.

Partly this was down to Di Giannantonio having crashed out of both sprints - he had a "strange" highside in Qatar and then caught himself out at Portimao by running in the wrong gear. Yet he also had a generally muted outing in Portugal, describing it as the first time in a year and a half that he'd lacked rear grip.

Overall, it's been a bit untidy and a bit inconsistent - which, Di Giannantonio suggests, was perhaps to be expected.

"In the tests we've been amazing, because we had plenty of time to work together with the team, and to really have the bike like a second skin, let's say, to build the bike around you," he explained.

"But for sure we know, three months of work together, they still have to understand 100% what I need, and also me, I still have to give my maximum to them, let's say.

"Overall with all the issues that we've had until now we did an OK job. Last year at the beginning of the year we were celebrating like hell a top-10 finish.

"I think we are on a good way, and I'm also sure our bright days will come soon."

Alex Marquez's anonymity

The younger Marquez felt he'd made too many mistakes at the start of his first Ducati season last year, so has made it a target to cut down on them - albeit he still ruined his Portuguese GP with what he himself admitted had been an entirely avoidable fall.

"I wasn't patient about giving myself more time to understand the slipstream," he said.

"I had three bikes in front, I was trying to stop but I didn't have the patience to release a little bit the brakes and to lose maybe one tenth and a half, instead of crashing.

"Was my fault."

The concerning part for Alex was that, crash aside, he was not as fast as he would've expected at a Portimao track he has a strong track record at - and certainly not as fast as his brother.

"Marc has been much faster than us here, all the '23 Ducatis. He's riding in a really good way, in a really good form, especially turning the bike."

Perhaps this is the common denominator, at least partly.

All three of Marc Marquez's GP23 peers have individual reasons to be further back than they had finished last season. But if you theorise that the difference between the two different Ducati specs this year is bigger than it had been last year, as has been repeatedly suggested (but also occasionally denied), it makes sense that Bezzecchi, Di Giannantonio and Alex Marquez aren't hitting the same heights.

That, then, would make it even more remarkable if Marc continues to hang with the factory-spec Desmosedicis.

But if he keeps getting more out of the GP23 bike than his established Ducati peers, it certainly won't be doing their rider market stock any favours.

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