until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


What rivals saw in Marquez's ominous Ducati MotoGP debut

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Having long maintained that he doesn't expect to be fighting for the title in 2024, Yamaha MotoGP rider Fabio Quartararo perhaps had less reason than most to be bothered by Marc Marquez's lightning-fast start to life at Ducati.

"It's what I expected straight away," he said with a smirk. "I said he was going to do 1m29.4s from the first day, and it's what he did. I was pretty good on the expectations."

Marquez's final time from the seven-hour Valencia test session, in which he logged 49 laps, was a 1m29.424s. It was a couple of tenths of a second off what he'd done in qualifying with the Honda on Saturday (albeit in Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin's wheeltracks) - but also good enough to lead the session for a spell.

He ultimately wound up fourth, as the second-fastest Ducati behind Marco Bezzecchi and fewer than two tenths behind famed testing wizard Maverick Vinales on the Aprilia.


Marquez wasn't available for comment due to what Gresini says were fairly strict contractual stipulations from Honda, which is releasing him from what had been a four-year deal one year in advance.

And his new team has insisted it is very limited it what it can publicly say, too.

But it did make team manager Michele Masini available for a media session - and the unflappable-seeming Italian, his demeanour barely betraying a hint of emotion, did make it clear in both general-sounding answers and some fairly pointed hints that it had been a really good day for his operation.

He said he "didn't sleep well - but because of the calendar [fatigue], not because of the test day".

And, in a very straightforward tone, he described the day as "amazing", noting a "great job on both sides of the garage" but lamenting a relative shortage of mileage due to conditions being too cold for meaningful running at certain times of the day.

Asked if he was surprised, he said: "You know, about [because of] contracts I can't say more but I think today the timesheets can speak [for themselves]."

And when asked whether the target was now to win the championship or to at least reach the top five, Masini said "I would lie to you if I said the opposite" - the implication seemingly being that he was responding to the former hypothesis.

Marc's brother and team-mate Alex Marquez said: "I know that here he's really fast always. He's making the same [Honda-to-Ducati] step as me last year. I knew before starting the day - I didn't speak with him still, I didn't have the opportunity.

"But I know which comments he will say to me. And now we don't need to keep secrets, we can share, and this is really positive, but in private, because as you know he has some contract things that he can respect."


The non-Gresini Ducati crop were freer to speak, but seemed to be prepared for exactly this kind of performance from Marquez - whose data they already have access to (and vice versa).

"I was speaking with you [media] after the contract was signed of Marc, and I was saying he would be first in the first test. I was close, eh?" smirked reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia. "Very close.

"But I think he can be very satisfied with our bike. It was looking more smooth [for him] compared to last year."

Bagnaia's fellow Valentino Rossi protege Marco Bezzecchi - who had a massive falling out with Marquez during the Valencian Grand Prix weekend - was asked, too, albeit with an acknowledgment being put to him that he may not be so keen to answer.

Rejecting the notion, Bezzecchi said: "Everyone knows that Marc is fast.

"I expected this. I was not surprised. I think nobody was surprised by this. Because the bike is competitive.

"But... nobody can say that he's not a fast rider and a world champion. I was not surprised."

Bezzecchi's new VR46 team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio offered a similar line.

"Yeah, Marc did an incredible job. But I think there are no surprises about it. At the end, he's an eight-time world champion on the world champion bike. So... I think there are no big surprises, honestly."

But as for Bagnaia's works team-mate Enea Bastianini, he did at least hint that he hadn't seen anything on the data that couldn't be replicated - although did point out that Marquez was already showing up fellow Ducati riders through Turn 8, a long, sweeping corner that is, entirely unsurprisingly given Marquez's reputation, a left-hander.

"I have checked the data before coming here, to see Marc's style," he said.

"And it was really good from the start. To be fast early, the Ducati for this is a good bike, for the first impact.

"After I saw also his time attack and was really good. Probably he's the Ducati rider much faster in Turn 8, he's really impressive in that corner. For the rest, normal.

"I'm curious to see how will be the next season. If this [season] was complicated, the next one will be more complicated for everybody."


The comments from two factory team bosses to MotoGP.com ultimately summed up the overriding impression within the paddock.

"I mean, what were people expecting?" said Marquez's now-former team boss at Honda, Alberto Puig, even allowing himself a chuckle.

"It's quite obvious. For us [anyway]. We know the rider. And we can see the potential of other bikes. Zero surprise."

And Ducati factory team boss Davide Tardozzi more or less hinted that a Marquez title challenge was an inevitability.

"He's impressive. He already did something that he will show during the year. I think that for sure Marc will be one of the top three at the end of the year."

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