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Quality and quantity? | Just how hard will it be to beat in 2024 MotoGP?

We’ve all heard the mantra ‘it’s just testing’ but testing is there for a reason. 

Sure, different fuel loads, different tyres and different objectives will make results from testing objectively subjective when it comes to analysis. But, at the same time, sandbagging is pointless in a series as close as MotoGP, where one error can mean the difference between first and last on the grid…

So BSN is here to say ‘...and?’ in response to ‘it’s just testing’ and argue that the results of the three-day pre-season test at Sepang are an approximate order of things to come, at least in the opening rounds.


Which is good news for Ducati because once it had blown the cobwebs off its new GP24 and its satellite teams had dialled into its inherited GP23, it looked its solid and devastating best both over qualifying simulations and longer race runs.

Perhaps the most striking takeaway from the first of two official pre-season tests was just how hot the pace actually was.

No rider has ever lapped Sepang under 1m 57secs and not only did four riders achieve that feat, they did so with a huge margin to spare. In fact, the fastest ten riders after three days went faster than Pecco Bagnaia’s pole-winning lap record from October and they include representatives from four of the five manufacturers (including Honda), with Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha just a few hundredths adrift himself.

Bagnaia was the rider to set the timesheets alight with the fastest lap time, followed by Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini and Alex Marquez. Not a surprise, this was the top four from October’s race, but good news for Ducati in that all three of its GP24s (excluding test rider Michele Pirro filling in for Franco Morbidelli) could turn on the rapid pace straight away.

Just outside the 1m 56secs bracket, Aleix Espargaro was again on fine for Aprilia as the best-placed non-Ducati, while there are sneaking suspicions that Brad Binder - who didn’t chase times on day three - would also be up there with the front four on the KTM if he wanted to.

Then there was Marc Marquez, who didn’t enjoy the best of tests as he struggled with both technical issues and difficulty breaking out of his ‘Honda style’ of riding but ultimately came good with an eye-catching sixth fastest time at the end.

Shout-out too to Joan Mir, who posted the biggest gains of any rider between the race weekend and the test, the Spaniard looking much more at ease on the significant updated Honda RC213V as he popped up into a top ten position we didn’t see all that much in 2023.

As sign of things to come at VR46 Racing? Fabio di Giannantonio had the measure of Marco Bezzecchi in Malaysia...

Fabio di Giannantonio stretches his legs at VR46 Racing

While there is plenty of room for excuses on fast single laps if riders didn’t get it quite right on their one or two fresh tyre opportunities, for the most part the timesheets across three-day test was fairly static.


Indeed, Ducati controlled things out front, first with Martin, then Bastianini and finally with Bagnaia, though it took until day three for the latter to show his hand. That said, a strategy of flying under the radar until it matters is one Bagnaia has regularly employed during race weekends, so it’s no surprise. Point is, the two-time World Champion remains the man with a target on his back for a reason.

As for the longer runs, MotoGP.com helpfully went to the effort of providing accurate timings for those who attempted a race simulation of more than nine laps. While analysing this a touch restrictive when you consider not all riders attempted such a run, the results are perhaps not so surprising.

Even so, they will give both Fabio di Giannantonio and Bastianini reason to be very satisfied after coming out on top, comfortably ahead of Martin, Espargaro and Marc Marquez.

For di Giannantonio, the Italian is still seemingly riding the crest of a wave from his strong end to 2023, one that yielded a maiden win in Qatar, ultimately saved his MotoGP career and justly earned him a spot in Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Racing team.


Having been considered the weak link in Ducati’s octet of riders since his debut in 2022, di Giannantonio has not only flourished with that bit of extra confidence he is clearly benefiting from, but it has revealed a rider who suits the Desmosedici in a different way to his rivals.

Exhibiting a style reminiscent of Bastianini in 2021 and 2022 when he raced with Avintia and Gresini, di Giannantonio is showing notably strong form during the final stages of the race when the tyres start to drop. While riders were given a welcome three days without rain in Sepang, the circuit is hard on tyres, so his fastest race sim time bodes well for Qatar.

Similarly Bastianini, whose trump card at the tail-end of races was almost wiped out in 2023 due to a lack of strength owing to two major injuries. Indeed, while it is all well and good managing your bike to be consistently fast over a race, it’s no use if your body isn’t up to doing the same.

There will be some encouraged faces down at Aprilia too as Espargaro and Maverick Vinales posted strong race runs. The RS-GP has shown inconsistent results when it comes to staying with the pace in races, but it shows more of the positive kind is within its grasp. This will be good news for Vinales, who on occasion in 2023 struggled to live with the overall pace from the mid-way stage.

Elsewhere, KTM will also take heart from Pedro Acosta’s strong longevity despite his rookie status. The Austrian marque is known for holding something back during testing, but is likely to have let Acosta run without restriction to gauge his race performance. Assuming Binder at least would - for now - have stronger race pace, it’s a good omen for the South African to see Acosta riding high both on the single lap and race run timesheets.

Augusto Fernandez risks being clouded out of his own GasGas team by Pedro Acosta

Which teams and riders are struggling?

If there was a weak link in MotoGP - and we’re clutching at straws really here - then Honda with its wooden spoon from 2023 would be it.

Excitingly, given the 2024-spec RC213V is arguably the most markedly different machine on track year-on-year, the green shoots of promise are there. 

As mentioned, Mir looked competitive throughout the test, while Johann Zarco - despite dropping back by the end - was also bothering the top ten with a lot more left to give. As for Luca Marini, his long run pace showed promise but he is still lacking some bite when it comes to delivering over a single lap.

As for Yamaha, it looked very strong early on in the test but both Quartararo and Alex Rins would steadily slide down the order.

While the manufacturer has admitted the eye-catching top speed reading from Quartararo - fastest of all by the end of the test - was manipulated by him being able to run deeper into the braking zone, the M1 does look substantially faster in a straight line than before, enough to keep up with the opposition.

The difficult thing will be now to dial it into being nimble in the corners like Quartararo likes and how Rins relies on to get the best from him. While it didn’t come by the end of the test for Yamaha, the impression is the M1 is just a few set-up tweaks shy of getting back towards the front, at least more regularly than in 2023.

Moreover, Rins looks a match for Quartararo, at least more than Morbidelli was over the last couple of years.

Elsewhere, some of the more youthful riders were having a tough time. Augusto Fernandez was blown out of the water by Acosta during the three days and spent the entirety of the test rooted to the bottom of the timesheets.

The Spaniard faces a tough test in 2024. While he is a Moto2 World Champion himself and was generally regarded as a value added addition to the grid as the only rookie in 2023, with Acosta ticking similar boxes (Moto2 champ, only rookie), there is a direct retrospective comparison Fernandez will be measured against while also trying to prove he is as worthy of a ride as his countryman is in 2024.

Finally, Raul Fernandez rather ruined his test before it started by crashing just minutes into it. The Spaniard hasn’t sparkled during his time in MotoGP, but showed glimmers of hope towards the end of 2023.

However, while he once came with an excellent endorsement from fired ex-boss Razlan Razali, Fernandez now has to prove himself to new team owners Trackhouse Racing and freshly-appointed team principal Davide Brivio, so will have no more excuses in what will be his third season in the top flight.

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