Why Marc Marquez & Co. are still winless in 2024

The first third of the 2024 MotoGP season is over and delivered more or less the picture expected before the start of the season: Aprilia and KTM were able to challenge Ducati now and then, but on the whole the Italians from Borgo Panigale still have the clear upper hand. This is also shown by a look at the standings of the drivers’ world championship after the Italian GP in Mugello. There, four Ducatisti are at the top: Jorge Martin (171 points), Francesco Bagnaia (153), Marc Marquez (136) and Enea Bastianini (114), followed by Pedro Acosta (101) and Maverick Vinales (100) as the spearheads of their respective manufacturers.

And yet the MotoGP season so far is somewhat different from those of the last two years. What does that mean? A list: Enea Bastianini in 2022 in Qatar, Austin, Le Mans and Aragon. Marco Bezzecchi in 2023 in Argentina, Le Mans and Assen. Alex Marquez in the sprints at Silverstone and Sepang, Fabio Di Giannantonio in Qatar. While Bagnaia and Martin stormed from victory to victory on the factory Ducatis, in recent seasons even previous year’s machines have repeatedly achieved isolated race victories. Bastianini and Bezzecchi even briefly led the world championship on an outdated Ducati.

Marc Marquez moves to Ducati: Consequences for the entire MotoGP (07:40 min.)

Ducati wins only with GP24: Marc Marquez and Co. on the podium at most

However, there is no sign of this in 2024. Only MotoGP superstar Marc Marquez regularly rides at the front on the Desmosedici GP23, and has already achieved three GP podiums and five second places in the sprint. Apart from that, however, there is a big gap between the factory and last year’s Ducatisti. Brother Alex Marquez’s best placing so far is fourth place in the Spanish Grand Prix, while VR46 newcomer Fabio Di Giannantonio achieved fifth place in the Catalonia Grand Prix. Marco Bezzecchi can boast a podium finish in Jerez, but apart from that he has only made it into the top ten three other times.

The Ducati Desmosedici GP23 is a long way from its glory days of previous years this season and the big question is: why is that? “Because the GP24 is one and a half seconds faster every lap,” replied world champion Francesco Bagnaia jokingly after his double victory in Mugello, but he hit the nail on the head. In fact, the gap between the factory Ducati and last year’s machine is somewhat larger this year than in 2022 or 2023. But there is another point to add: in 2024, the factory riders had hardly any starting difficulties and were fast from the first winter test in Sepang. In the two previous years, however, they had only really got going towards the middle of the season, after the ‘teething problems’ of the new machines had been sorted out.

Gresini and VR46 are still winless in 2024, Photo: LAT Images
Gresini and VR46 are still winless in 2024, Photo: LAT Images

‘Bastianini syndrome’ slows down GP23 conversion

In 2022 or 2023, this opened up opportunities for the previous year’s machines that had already been discarded to collect ‘big points’, especially in the first races of the year. Bastianini and Bezzecchi did this impressively, but then fell somewhat behind due to the lack of updates over the course of the season. In the current season, these surprise moments from the previous year’s Ducatisti were absent because the factory machines delivered right from the start. In addition, all those who switched from GP22 to GP23 initially had major adjustment problems, which slowed down their performance on the first race weekend of 2024. They suffered and in some cases continue to suffer from ‘Bastianini syndrome’. The outgoing factory driver had great problems adjusting to the GP23 in 2023 because it requires the drivers to drive in a very special way in the braking zone.

Since the GP23 is no longer being developed and is stagnating in terms of performance, while the GP24 will receive updates over the course of the season, it is unlikely at first glance that the first victory of a previous year’s machine will follow this year. But the factory Ducatisti think differently. “We needed a little more time to adapt last year, but it was a very good bike,” recalls Bagnaia, adding: “On some tracks it was very competitive, here [Mugello] or Barcelona, ​​for example. In the Jerez test they got a new exhaust that helped them. Now we are more or less on the same level again. I think it won’t be long before a 23 bike wins.”

Ducati stars sure: First GP23 victory coming soon!

Still-teammate Enea Bastianini agrees: “For me there is no big difference between GP23 and GP24, not much has changed. I believe that the GP23 can still win races in the future.” Last year’s Ducatisti should hope that this is actually the case by looking back at the past two years. Back then, Di Giannantonio, Alex Marquez and Bastianini in the Gresini team and Bezzecchi for VR46 were all able to celebrate race victories in sprint or grand prix in the last third of the season. Why shouldn’t that be repeated in 2024?

Marc Marquez has only celebrated second places so far, Photo: LAT Images
Marc Marquez has only celebrated second places so far, Photo: LAT Images

Finally, there is a MotoGP superstar named Marc Marquez, who will be returning to his favorite track, the Sachsenring, in a few weeks. Between 2013 and 2021, he won all MotoGP races there and is therefore considered the top favorite by the bookmakers. It is therefore not unlikely that the first triumph of a GP23 will follow there at the latest. But the mission ‘1st MotoGP victory since November 2021’ will certainly not be easy for Marquez, because Bagnaia knows: “We are simply driving particularly well at the moment. The three of us [Bagnaia, Bastianini, Martin] We are not slow drivers, we simply do an excellent job.”

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